"Won't you describe the home you lived in as a girl, dear
Grandmother Brown?" I begged. "We want to know just
how everything in it looked."
"The land on which it stood sloped toward the east,"
she answered. "From our front porch we could see Miles Mill on the
Hocking River and the hills beyond, but not the river itself. Around our
place ran a 'post and rail' fence - that is, a fence that had slots cut in the
posts with flat smooth rails fitted into the slots. Within our enclosure
was everything to make a happy world for children. We had no need to go
abroad for pleasure, although we often did run across the street and down the
road to play at the Homes of our numerous cousins.
"Our house was of weatherboard inlaid with brick so that
the walls were very thick and the window sills very deep. It was a
two-story structure above the cellar kitchen. In the middle of the house,
opening on to the porch that faced the street, was the main entrance. This
porch had a railing around it and a seat against the railing, all the way
around. It was a resort for old and young. There Ma sat with her
sewing. There we all gathered on a summer afternoon. The front door
opened directly into the big living room with its huge fireplace. Back of
this were kitchen and summer kitchen, across the way the best room, - we never
called it parlor, - upstairs the sleeping rooms. My mother use to say,
after we had lived about in different places, that never was there any place
where she could accomplish so much as in that house.
"What kind of furniture did we have? Well, in the
best room the chairs were of the kind called Windsor - the bottoms solid, the
backs round. In that room too was one large rocking-chair with the most
beautiful cushion on it. I think the chairs must have been of
cherry-perhaps mahogany; they were red. And in one corner stood a large
bureau-the most work on it!-big claw feet, glass knobs. The walls of this
room were painted white. The floor had a rag carpet. At that time,
all window shades were made of paper, green paper. We had thin white
curtains over the shades. No pictures.
"In our living room we had no carpet. The floor was
of ash wood, very white, and kept white. Every morning, after sweeping it,
we wiped it over with a clean, damp mop. It took but a few minutes and
kept the floor sweet and clean. That mop was rinsed then and hung in its
place. We were always up at five o'clock in the morning, so that we had
plenty of time for everything.
"At the back of the house lay orchard and garden, the well
and drying kiln, the milk house and smoke house, with the stables at the farther
end of the lot where my father drove his oxen in. I used to run, when I
heard the oxen coming at night, to see them put their handsome heads into the
stanchion. My father's oxen were famous for their beauty. Once, a
little while after Dan'l and I were married and living in Amesville, we drove
back to Athens. Stopping at a wayside place, Dan'l introduced me to the
innkeeper, saying, "This is Eben Foster's daughter,' And the man
exclaimed, 'Oh, those fine oxen that he had!' He was more interested in
them than in the bride.
"My father was always thoughtful of his oxen. Once he
dismissed a hired man who swore at them. 'They work hard for me six days a
week,' he said, 'and all they get is what they eat. They can't be sworn at
or abused.' Every Saturday in warm weather Pa turned the oxen out for a
nice long Sabbath rest.
"He used to send them to his farm. That was the first
ground outside the corporation. The Baltimore and Ohio Railway station
stands on that land to-day. There my father raised hay for his cattle and
there our cows were pastured. We never kept less than two, for Pa always
would have plenty of milk and butter. We children used to drive the cows
back and forth to pasture. Other people kept theirs on the common. All
the hills around Athens were covered with lovely grass where cows could walk
knee-deep. But we knew where our cows were if we kept them on our own
"The oxen were used by my father for hauling the brick he
manufactured. He always kept at least three teams. The brick he made
was eight-sided, like a honeycomb design. Some of it I saw, a few years
ago, in a pavement in Athens. The soil about there is full of iron, and
the brick made from it was so hard that it wouldn't break when unloaded. They
used to pull out the linchpin of the cart and just drive on."
"Tell me some more about your home," I urged
"Close to the house was the well. It was a natural
spring. My father had walled it up. Our place used to be a tanyard.
Think how much water is needed for a tannery! I've heard my mother
say that in time of drought as many as fourteen families had been supplied from
our well. The water from it flowed into the milk house through troughs of
cut stone that came from my father's quarry. Everything was so sloped that
whenever the least bit of water was spilt around the well it ran into the stone
troughs and through the milk house and down to the street. Outside the
fence was a great watering trough where Pa used to water his oxen.
"The old milk house was a beauty, everything in it so spick
and span and shiny, everything so conveniently arranged, smelling so fragrant
too of sweetbrier. Near by, in the smokehouse, we always had a good store
of hams and bacon well smoked in corncob smoke.
"Near the house too was the dry kiln where my mother dried
fruit for the winter. The kiln consisted of a big oval flagstone, at least
six feet long, which had been brought from my father's quarry. It was as
smooth as if polished. It was set up on brick legs so as to be well off
the ground, and a fire was built at one end with a flue running under the flag
so as to warm the stone. The fire was made of chips and sticks and not
allowed to get too hot, or it would bake the fruit. On this flagstone Ma
spread out apples, peaches, pears, and quinces, cut in quarters. These she
covered with a cloth which absorbed the moisture and kept off the flies and
bees. From time to time she would turn the fruit over until it was
"Fruit! We were rich in fruit those days, our trees
and bushes burdened with it. Boys always know where apples grow. I've
heard Judge Welch say, 'We boys used to flock up to the Foster orchard. We
never got yelled at or driven away from there.' Well, we had all we
needed. I never saw such prolific apple trees as we had, such wealth of
early sweet apples and Vandevere pippins, such cherry trees. As for
quinces and currants, there aren't such any more. Why, our quinces were
great golden things like my two fists put together, yellow, the color of lemon,
and no 'furze' on them. Currants so abundant that we couldn't possibly use
them all! Stems as long as my finger and tapering down just like it!
My mother used to put them up with raspberries-how good they were!
"My mother was a good housekeeper and used to try to save
everything, but there was so much fruit that some of it had to go to waste.
I remember that, close at the left of our well, an apple tree grew
up slanting, completely covering our smokehouse and milk house. The apples
were not considered especially good,-hadn't much tang,-but they were solid and
sweet. Ma would wash and boil them, press the juice out with clamps, boil
it down to make apple molasses. We children loved it on our bread and
butter. Then Ma would boil quinces and apples together in this molasses.
Usually a ten-gallon jar of this stood in our pantry. My, how good
"I have never seen any place kept so nice, inside and out,
as ours was. In those days bedsteads had no springs, so we used to have
straw beds under our feather beds to make them springy. Every spring the
ticks were emptied and washed and filled with new straw. I remember
hearing it said that my father wouldn't let the straw be carried through the
grounds because some of it would be dropped on the grass and give the place an
untidy look. No, everything about our place was neat and in order while my
father lived. And there were roses, tidy rows of lovely roses to make
things beautiful. I remember a row that ran the whole length of the house,
a row of red roses big and round, as big as door knobs. We didn't have so
many kinds of roses as nowadays, but we had them in abundance. When Ma
would be sitting outdoors sewing, we'd stick roses in her hair. I can see
her now with a big one flopping from her comb.
"It was a happy home for ten years; but when I was four
years old my father died. And after that things were different.
"I have been told many times about my father by those who
knew him and admired him. Once I said to Grandma Foster: 'Tell me,
did my father have no faults? Everybody praises him,' and she answered
thoughtfully: 'Well, if he had a fault at all, it was his levity.'
"I talked to her a good deal about him. Probably some
of the things I think I remember about him she told me when I was helping her on
Thursday afternoons. There was no school then, and I used to help Grandma
give the schoolroom its weekly cleaning. ('My child, why do you walk so
fast?' Grandma used to say to me then. Just as if she didn't fly
herself!) You see, Grandma had been teaching a long time before I was old
enough to go to school. She may have told other grandchildren about our
grandfather, so that it didn't occur to her to talk to me about him. But
about my father I asked questions and so I drew her out. When I was going
to her school, she must have had her hands full, cutting out and basting all the
work for us little girls, besides all her housework to do.
"My mother said she lived with Eben Foster ten years and
never heard him speak an impatient word. He was evidently a man of peace,
for Grandma Foster has told me how depressed he used to be as a child if his
brothers, Hull and Ira, would quarrel. Young as I was at the time of his
death, I have some precious memories of my father. I have a clear
recollection of him in his Sunday clothes, and he seemed to me very grand and
handsome then. Our folks are all proud. We like our Sunday clothes.
My father did. Uncle Hull was the same way. And my Grandmother
Foster too. Once when she was having a bonnet made and Sister Libbie was
making it, there was debate about what the style should be. The newest
fashion was to have bonnets stick up in front, and Grandma said she wanted hers
to stick up a little too. 'I don't want, when I go into church, to have
the young people nudge each other and whisper: "Do look at old Mrs.
"I suppose I remember my father in his Sunday clothes not
only because I admired his appearance, but because that was the day when we saw
most of him. He had time on Sunday to hold me on his lap. It was a
day of quiet leisure with us. No cooking was done on that day. Oh,
we might make a fire to boil some coffee, but all the other food had been
prepared the day before. And so it happens that, sitting on my father's
lap, I studied the last Sunday clothes he ever wore. They were made of a
dark navy blue cloth in a heavy weave. With them he wore a white vest and
a hat with a kind of bell crown, something like the one Uncle Sam wears in all
our pictures of him.
"I remember particularly the kind of buttons Pa wore on his
white vest, because I played with them once when I lay in his arms, his naughty,
adoring child. It happened this way: We older children were in
church with Pa and Ma, but Kate, the baby, had been left at home. My
mother suddenly felt the milk come. When they were singing the last hymn,
she stepped out of church and hurried home to the baby, leaving us to follow
with our father. I began to cry for my mother. 'Daughter,' he said,
'you'll stop this crying, or when you get home I'll have to switch your legs.'
I kept on crying. And so he led me home and out into the garden,
where he cut a little twig from a currant bush, - one with little nubs along the
side, but it wouldn't break anything, - and he gave me a tingly switching across
my legs. Then he took me up in his arms and talked to me as we sat on the
front porch, and I played with the buttons on his vest. They were glass
buttons held in by a ring. If I should be so fortunate as to get to
Heaven, I think my father'll meet me. I always felt he'd be the first one.
"I think I must have tried hard after that to please him,
because I remember a scene which would seem to indicate it. We always
butchered our own beef. Strips of dried hung from the raftered ceiling of
our kitchen and reaching up to cut off pieces of beef for us children. John
and Libbie were shouting, 'Give me a piece,' but I said primly, 'Pa, I'm not
going to tease.' And he said, 'Daughter, you shall have the first piece
for that remark.'
"I know that he must have been a kind and tenderhearted
man, a loving husband and father. He thought, for instance, that if a
woman had a baby her husband ought to give her something. When Kate was
born, he brought home to our mother stuff for two dresses. One was a
beautiful black satin. Those were the days, too, when they didn't know
enough to make satin without making it all satin. The other was an oil
calico, fifty cents a yard, a gournd work of red overlaid with a figure in many
colors. Beautiful pieces of goods! Well, a woman earned it when she
had a baby.
"My father was good to many. My mother had a brother
who was drowned in Lake Erie, leaving behind him a wife and several children.
When my father heard of it, he harnessed his team and drove up to Sandusky
and bought them home to our place. He gave Aunt Betsy our cellar kitchen
and the room above that, and the room above that, to live in, gave her
practically all her living, and provided a loom for her on which she could do
weaving and earn a little herself. I remember that once my father went
into Aunt Betsy's kitchen when she and her children were at table. 'What's
that?' he suddenly said, quite fiercely, pointing at a pan of milk. 'That
looks like skimmed milk.' 'It is,' said Aunt Betsy. 'Giving your
children skimmed milk to drink?' he asked severely. 'Well, I took the
cream to make a little butter,' acknowledged Aunt Betsy. 'You can have the
butter too,' said Pa, 'but I don't allow anyone on my place to drink skimmed
milk. That's only for pigs. Children must have the top of the milk.'
He made her go to the milk house and get more. After my father died,
Aunt Betsy would talk by the hour about how good he'd been to her.
"My mother told me once of how a neighbor came with a
silver pitcher, asking for cream, and at the same time the little girl of Mrs.
Johnson, a poor widow who lived in the next place, came with the same request.
After they had gone, my father said to her sternly: 'Did you put as
good cream into that earthen jug as went into the silver pitcher?' He
always had his men haul wood from his wood lot to Widow Johnson's door, and he
had them cut it where she could get every chip that flew. Every baking day
he'd say to Ma, 'Now don't forget a loaf for Mrs. Johnson.' He gave
freely, and it never made him poor."
"What about his levity?" I inquired.
"Well, I think he was rather a wag, liked a good story as
much as my Gus dies, and sometimes played a practical joke that he enjoyed
greatly. Even when the matter was serious! I remember hearing about
his helping three runaway slaves to get away. He hid them in his haymow
and then blacked his won face and had two of hired men black theirs. Then
he and his men showed themselves running towards his stone quarry. The
slave owner pursued them into the quarry, thinking they were the slaves, while
the real negroes used the opportunity to get away. My father enjoyed
playing this trick on the slave master, and telling about it, too!
"But I know he could lay aside his levity long enough to
have family worship, for I remember that quite clearly. There were always
at least four men boarding with us, men who helped my father in his brick kiln
or stone quarry, or on his farm. When breakfast was finished, they'd all
shove back from the table and Pa would read a chapter from the Bible. I've
heard my mother say she used to think if it was a little bit late, Pa'd select a
longer chapter than usual. And then they'd all kneel down and he would
pray, and then they'd be ready to go to work. We children had a special
place where we sat at this time, on a little bench removed from the others.
We were always good and quiet.
"I can remember other times in the dining room when my
father's levity was more apparent, when he stood by smiling at me in my red
morocco shoes while I danced for the men. They sang while I danced and
they beat time with their hands.
"Heigh, Diddy Martin!
Heigh, Diddy Martin!
Tipto, tiptoe. - fine!
"Then they'd laugh and shout -
"Follow my lady
"And I would strut and toss my head and lift my skirt and
twirl my toes until perhaps one of the men would snatch me up and toss me high
and not let me down until I'd tell his name. Ezra Goodspeed! Tome
Francis! I could not pronounce them well, and they'd laugh to hear me try.
No indeed, my father never objected to dancing. You can't find a
thing in the Bible against it, either.
"One of those men, Tom Francis, named his baby Eben Foster
after my father. He used to say that Pa cured him of drinking. A man
was considered very mean in those days if he didn't keep whiskey for his hired
help. But Pa persuaded Tom Francis to limit his drinking. He would
only give him a little at a time, and gradually he got him out of the habit of
drinking. When the temperance wave struck Athens, my father had two
barrels of whiskey in the house. He rolled them out, struck the heads in,
and let the whiskey run down the gutter, down our pretty gutter which, with its
sloping sides, all neatly paved with his own honeycomb brick, ran from our back
door to the street. The first temperance society organized in Athens was
called 'The Washingtonians,' and my father was a member of it."
It was ninety-five years since Grandmother Brown lost her
father, but there was a tragic quality in her voice still when she told of his
untimely taking-off. "I was only four years old when my father died.
It was in the month of August and very warm. It had been raining
hard for days and the river had risen and overflowed its banks. On the
farm Pa had been working hard trying to save his hay, to get it in before it was
ruined by the water. He took cold - had a sunstroke, perhaps - anyway,
came home exhausted, running a high fever. Ma was alarmed and sent for the
doctor, who gave him calomel and forbade him water. Probably he would have
recovered if there had been no doctor and he had had plenty of rest and cold
water. When the doctor found himself unable to check the fever, he told my
father that his hour had come and he would have to die. Pa was only
thirty-three years old, but he said: 'For the sake of my family, I would
like to live longer, but if I lived ever so much longer I could be no better
prepared to go.'
"At the time when my father died, I was very sick too.
The doctor told my mother that I would probably recover, but that there
was no chance for Pa. I remember her taking me in her arms and carrying me
into the room where he was laid out. I remember putting my hand on his
"Oh, that was a great and terrible loss for us children.
If my father had lived, I should have received the kind of education I
long to have. My life would have been very different. Young as he
was, my father had made his mark on the community. He had begun with
nothing, too. Of course he had made a good many advantageous trades, but
that simply showed his business ability. He was perhaps younger than
anyone he hired. After Dan'l and I moved into this house here in Fort
Madison, an old man came to see me - 'Old Man Orm,' they called him - a
bricklayer. He said: 'I worked many a day for your father,
back in Ohio, and I never knew a better man.' I never heard anything but
praise of my father.
In the three years that followed her father's death, little
Maria played happily in the spacious grounds of her pleasant home with the
numerous young people of her kin, hardly conscious of what she had lost.
But the fortunes of the family declined. "We were
cheated by those who should have protected us." said Grandmother
Brown, and her eyes flashed even as she told about it. "And then my
mother was no financier. The trustee of our father's estate was not a good
one, and somehow he managed most of it away. He was a deacon, but he'd use
our cattle to haul wood from our wood lot to my mother's door and then charge
her for doing it. And Ma'd be fool enough to pay. All the time, too,
he was getting his own wood supply off our wood lot. In time he got to be
pretty well off.
"But, dear me suz, 'what comes over the devil's back goes
under his belly.' Our trustee lost all his property and, at the last, he
lost his mind too. His house was robbed and , after his wife died, he just
went to nothing. Finally, he got so he didn't know anything.
"After my father had been dead three years, my mother
married again. That was a sorry day for all of us. She married
Edward Hatch, a clerk in a dry goods store. He was a pretty man, but
without moral character.
"She had plenty of warning, too, but seemed possessed, poor
woman. I remember Uncle Hull and one other member of the church coming to
see her and urging her not to marry that man. I remember, too, that
Brother John was much offended when Mr. Hatch came courting our mother. Sister
Libbie and I helped him put a mop against the door so that when Mr. Hatch came
out it would whack him. 'That cottontail,' John called him.
"But Ma married him. None of her sisters and none of
her children were at the wedding.
:And so Mr. Hatch came to live in our plentiful home. He
never took care of anything. He would even pull boards off the house to
burn them. He was wasteful and dissipated and lazy. He was this kind
of man: If he was talking to a Whig, he was a Whig, if talking to a
Democrat, he too was a Democrat. Between him and our dishonest trustee,
practically all my mother's property was mismanaged away.
"Three children were speedily added to the family circle -
Mary, Ann, and Charlotte. Pretty little girls they were. When Mary
was born I was only eight years old, but I took entire care of her just the way
I'd seen my mother take care of Kate. She said she had nothing to do but
take the baby to nurse. I am glad that I could be a comfort to her, for
she needed comforting. The night the last child was born I heard Ma
calling me in her distress. My stepfather was too drunk to know what was
needed and did nothing except curse and swear, but I went for help, as Ma
directed, and got everything ready. The next morning, when neighbors came
in to see the baby, Mr. Hatch bethought himself to get some oranges and make a
fuss over Ma. But his way was very different from my father's way.
"My stepfather took a notion to keep a tavern. There
was an old-fashioned hotel in town called the Brice House, and at three
different times he rented it. Back and forth between the Brice House and
our old home we moved. Once we went to Somerset, once to Logan, to keep
hotel. Libbie and I were growing up, and the older we grew, the more
usefully could we be employed in running such a place. But it was a hard
life for women. There were no railroads in those days, and people traveled
in their own conveyances. Travelers would stop at all hours and call for
meals, which Ma, aided by us girls, was expected to provide. All our
stepfather ever did was to sit straddle of a chair in front of the fire and
roast himself, drinking whiskey and bandying words with every passer-by.
"At Logan we rented a tavern that had belonged to a man
named Gilbert Cushing. He had prided himself on keeping a temperance
house. Hatch signed an agreement with the widow to sell no whiskey, but he
kept the stuff under the stairs and dispensed it as he pleased. When Widow
Cushing learned that, she turned him out of the tavern. Our own house in
Athens was leased for a length of time, and we had no place to go to. So
we had to move to a place in the country where we had rooms in a large home.
We were there about three years, until I was fourteen years old."
At this point in her story Grandmother Brown became sorely
troubled. "Oh, perhaps I ought not to say anything about my mother's
second marriage. She was such a good mother. I would not seem
ungrateful. I was a puny little child and no doubt caused her many
sleepless nights. I remember her weeping because she thought I could not
live. My children all loved her dearly. But how can I tell my life
story and not mention the one mistake of her life, when it had such a sad
effect on us all? Yet we never held it against her, but loved her warily
and obeyed her in everything.
"I wonder what little Maria Foster looked like," I
said to Grandmother Brown. "Can't you describe her as she probably
was a year or two after her father died?"
"Oh, I was rather a puny child. Not until I got into
my teens was I at all robust. I came to be a tall, healthy girl with curly
dark hair and high color, but as a child I was small and pale with blonde hair.
Little 'Liza Hatch, my stepfather's niece, hurt my feelings one time by
saying spitefully, 'Pa says you're a pot-gutted little thing.' I s'pose I
was. I used to have sick spells in school and faint away sometimes. Once
I was sent out in the country to a Mr. Richey's. 'Let the little girl go
home with us,' he had said to my mother, when he heard I was not well. There
I hunted eggs and romped with his little girls, Caroline and Mehaley. What
a happy time it was!
"I know that my hair was light once, because I remember the
first time it was ever cut. Mr. Hoge stood me up on a chair and cut my
curls. Mrs. Hoge was a friend of my mother's whose husband was a professor
in the college. I remember looking at the yellow rings of hair lying on
the floor. We girls wore nets over our hair. Our mother made them.
She made them of black silk thread, netting them over a pencil.....like a
fish net. At the top a long portion was left plain so a ribbon could be
run through and tied at the top of the head. It was a very nice way to
dress children's hair so as to keep it smooth and tidy."
"And what kind of dress did you wear?"
"Usually Sister Libbie and I were dressed alike. We
were for a long time about the same size, and many people thought we were twins.
Then I took a start and began to grow, and became considerably the taller.
Libbie always liked pink and I blue. I don't think so much pink
looks well - I was too big to wear it.
"I remember some of the pretty clothes we used to have when
we were little girls. There was a garnet-colored cashmere which was
different on the two sides and there was a merino which was alike on both sides.
We used to get such pretty lawns in those days in all kinds of colors.
Ma made them up with yoke and blet. I remember that the sleeves were
cut with a perfect circle for the armhole, making the part under the arms only
about an inch long and a puff on the top. I had long mitts of fine brown
linen which my mother had embroidered. They reached above the elbow.
Our mother used to take great pains with our clothes. We were
supposed to wear sunbonnets and mitts to protect us against the sun. It
was thought dreadful to get tanned as we did whenever we went out to Uncle
John's farm. I can hear my mother saying, 'Oh, my child! I hate to
take you to church. How you look!'
"I remember the prettiest little bonnet that I once had.
It looked much like a sweet pea. The crown went up this way - oh,
you know how a sweet pea looks! It was made of a pretty shade of green
silk and lined with pink. This bonnet was made by Miss Crippen, the
milliner, and promised for Saturday night. But it was not finished until
late and was brought home to us as a special favor on Sunday morning, which
impressed me very much.
"I had green shoes to match that bonnet - shoes made of
green prunella and trimmed with ribbon pleating and buckles. I had another
pair of shoes of which the front part was blue prunella and the back blue kid to
match. With these pretty shoes we wore white stockings which were knitted
from fine cotton. Our common shoes were made of black morocco or calfskin.
"Though Libbie and I were dressed alike, we were not much
alike in nature. I am sure that I was less obedient and harder to control than
she was. I was a saucy little girl, I am told. When my mother was pregnant
with Kate, she was trying, one morning, to prepare herself for church, but kept
complaining that she felt ill. 'If I felt as bad as you pretend to,' I piped
up, I's go to bed and have a hot brick to my feet.' She
should have spanked me, perhaps, but instead she laughed and thought it
"In all our play Sister Libbie and I were partners. We
always did things together. It had to be an awfully hot night when we
didn't sleep with our arms around each other. We slept so until we were
married, and we were married the same day. When one of us had a beau and
the other one didn't, one would always wait until the other's company had gone
before she went to bed.
"We loved and admired each other devotedly. And
indeed, Sister Libbie was a pretty, dear little thing. I remember once
when we were staying all night at Aunt Maria Foster's, how I looked up and saw
her standing there in her little shimmy, looking for fleas and shaking herself
over the rose blanket. That's a kind of blanket that has a rose woven in
one corner and was made with a very long fiber. Rose blankets were fine
things to catch fleas," said Grandmother Brown.
"What?" I asked in astonishment.
"Didn't you ever see a flea?"
"I don't believe I ever did."
"Well, they used to be terribly common. The dust and
air seemed to be full of them. The flea isn't bigger than a big pinhead,
but he can bite and raise great ugly welts on tender flesh. But he has a
beard on his clefs, and so, if shaken off into a rose blanket, he is caught by
his beard in the long fiber. We used to spread a rose blanket on the
floor at night and then shake ourselves over it. As Libbie stood there in
her little shift, that night, she looked so sweet that I couldn't resist calling
out, 'Oh, come, Aunt Maria! Come quick! I've got something pretty to show
you!' And I caught hold of Libbie's shimmy and drew it tight around her,
calling Aunt Maria to come. But Libbie called out: 'No, don't come,
Aunt Maria,' and there we struggled, laughing and shouting, 'Come, come quick,
Aunt Maria!' 'No, no, Aunt Maria, don't come!' and Aunt Maria came
running, wondering what it was all about, and nodded and laughed at us and said,
'Yes, yes, she has a pretty shape.'
"Our sister Kate was not with us much in those early days,
because, when Pa died, Aunt Eliza, Ma's sister, carried her off and was never
willing to give her up again. Not until Aunt Eliza died, when Kate was
about ten years old, did she return to her own family circle. She had been
spoiled, and at first we found her unbearable; but finally she discovered that
she couldn't run things at home and settled down to be a very nice child. She
was always enterprising and high-spirited, full of life and vitality, ready to
try anything. Often I've seen her run and jump and spat her foot against
the top of the door. One of her sons - Nelson - inherited her athletic
activities and began to jump and wrestle almost as soon as he could walk. I
remember one day when she was a little girl we were playing about a friend's
stable. Kate and Melissa Dean climbed up[ on the shaving horse and said
they were going to have a ride. Just then, Kate noticed a real horse lying
in its stall, ran to it, jumped on its back, and began to shout, 'I've got a
live horse, a live one, a live one!' Before the astonished horse could
express his indignation, the owner came running in and pulled her off.
"But there was no suppressing Kate for long. As she
grew up, she became extremely pretty. She had a lovely fresh color and a
very shapely figure. And no one ever got the best of her."
Prominent in Maria's family background stood out her two
grandmothers. Each of them made a deep impression on her youthful mind.
"Were the two good friends?" I asked. "Oh,
yes," she laughed, "both were good Presbyterians.
"Grandma Foster was a tiny little body, always immaculately
dressed. She taught school for many years in the house which my father
built for her in 1822. Many important persons in Ohio history sat before
her in their infancy. Boys and girls were in her classes, her own
grandchildren and great-grandchildren among the number.
"I remember well the first time I went to school. I
was about two years old. One of Aunt Betsy's children took me as a
visitor. There was a new long clock in the corner of the schoolroom which
I hadn't seen before. Its little fee were black. I pointed to it and
cried. 'Oh, what pretty little feet!' 'You mustn't talk out loud,
Maria,' Grandma Foster told me firmly, and I was awed.
"At Grandma Foster's school, little girls learned not only
to read and write, but to sew and knit also. When the boys got so they
could read well in the Testament, they were graduated.
"When I was six years old, I had pieced a patchwork quilt.
Sister Libbie had made two. There were nine pieces in each patch.
We sewed the pieced together with tiny over and over stitches after
Grandma had cut them out and basted them for us. If we took our stitches
too deep, we had to pick them out. We were taught to turn a hem and to do
it nicely. Sometimes Ma would send a kerchief to be hemmed or an apron to
be made. There never was a more useful school.
"We learned knitting, too. First we knit our garters,
afterwards our stockings. I knit eight pairs of socks for soldiers in the
World War, but I didn't follow the instructions of the Red Cross; I shaped the
feet the way Grandma Foster had taught me nearly ninety years before.
"When we were little girls and went some place, we always
took our knitting along. We had to knit so many times around before we
could play. Children must learn to be useful, they thought in those days.
My cousin, Lucinda Gillmore, came to play one day. 'My children have
done their task,' said Ma. 'Just give me your knitting and I'll do yours.'
We went running down to the orchard to the swing while our mother did
Cindy's knitting. It made a great impression on me - Ma's doing Cindy's
stint for her.
"After sewing and knitting came spelling and reading.
We used Webster's Elementary Spelling Book, beginning with the a
- b; e - n; and so on. Then came short sentences of just one line.
Like this: 'Brass is made of zinc and copper.' Then another
line telling something else would be useful to know. Every line different,
all important. We had the New England Primer, too. Then
Grandma taught us the Roman numerals, so that we could open the Bible and know
what chapter it was.
"We were taught good manners, too, at Grandma Foster's
school. At recess, the little girls used to play under the apple tree,
while the boys would romp in the street. I remember that one day, when I
had been laughing boisterously, Grandma called me to her and said mildly, - she
always corrected us very quietly, - 'My child, if something amuses you, laugh,
but not so loud.' When school was dismissed, it wasn't just open the door
and go out, but first the girls filed past Grandma making a deep obeisance, and
then the little boys marched by, cap in hand.
"I never remember Grandma Foster having a rod, never in my
time. I do remember the duce block. It used to stand over in the
corner by the fireplace. I can just see the smooth piece of black walnut.
Oh, that kind of punishment didn't hurt us, but it was humiliating.
"Grandma Foster taught until four days before she died at
the age of eighty-one. Every night she used to pray to Lord: 'I beg
that I may not outlive my usefulness.' One day she dismissed her school,
saying that she did not feel very well. Four days later, she calmly
breathed her last. When they went to pay for her coffin they found that
she had paid for it herself, several years before.
"She had eight children, and taught school at least
thirty-five years after her husband died," Said Grandmother Brown.
"That's what I call a full life."
Important in little Maria's early life was also her mother's
mother, Grandma Culver, or Grandma Perkins, as she was usually called. Maria
went to school to Grandma Foster, who thus, as grandparent and schoolmistress,
exercised double authority over her, as it were; but Grandma Perkins lived in
the same house with her for a number of years and thus brought the weight of her
pleasant personality to bear on the impressionable child.
"I remember her well," she told me. "She
came to live at our house, with my mother, after her second husband, Dr. Eliphaz
Perkins, died. I never remember her speaking my name. It was always
'Here dear!' fourteen children of her own, seven sons and seven daughter, and
she mothered some of Dr. Perkin's many children too, after she married him.
They all loved her. I remember their coming often to see her.
"She came to Athens with her first husband, my grandfather,
Bezalie Culver, from Kinsborough, Washington County, York State, when my
mother, who was her youngest daughter, was fourteen years old. They came
down the Ohio River on a raft and settled on a farm about a mile from Athens.
It was beautiful land, as I happen to know, because it is now the
Children's Home of Athens and I have visited it often. I like to think
that my grandfather's farm has gone to making a happy place for children.
"My Grandfather Culver was of Irish blood, a warmhearted
man. My mother used to say that he petted his children a great deal.
'I sat on my fathers' lap until I was married,' I've heard her say. They
told that he was a fine-looking man, that he resembled President Washington.
"After my Grandfather Culver died, Grandma used to come
often to stay with her oldest daughter, Ann, who lived in town in a large brick
house opposite Dr. Perkins, one of the first settlers of Athens and one of the
great figures in the early history of the Northwest Territory. I remember
that he was one of the first trustees of the University, a man of popularity and
influence. He was a very Christian man too. Every time he prepared a
potion for one of his patients, he'd pray over it before he gave it. He
was a widower at this time, waited on by a colored woman named Violet. When
he and my grandmother were about sixty years old, they were married. They
lived together very happily - Violet with them, I believe - for about ten years,
when Dr. Perkins died.
"Grandma Culver-Perkins was a larger, fleshier woman than
Grandma Foster. I remember noticing her figure as she stood wiping dishes
for my mother. But during the last years of her life she was crippled by
rheumatism and unable to walk. Leaning over a chair, she would stand a
while just to rest herself by change of posture, but she could not move without
help. She couldn't even move her arms freely; she was so drawn down that
her backbone was dislocated and her arms rested on the arms of her chair. Everyday
we placed the open Bible up in front of her so that she could see to read it.
From time to time I'd turn the pages for her.
"Grandma was very pretty. No wonder Dr. Perkins fell
in love with her. She had the loveliest brown eyes and the prettiest
little hands and feet. Her hair was auburn, old as she was. I know,
because I combed it for her every day until she died. I was then ten years
old. It was quite wavy, in heavy regular waves. I use to put a black
ribbon around it, stick a shell comb in the back, and then set on, over all, a
white cap made with a full border pleated in.
"I loved her dearly and waited on her more than the other
children did. When I'd been a naughty girl and Ma would be about to spank
me, I'd run to Grandma and she'd put her arms around me. And so I'd escape
the punishment. She was all drawn down with pain, and yet, when I think of
her, I can't remember that she was ever anything but cheerful and sweet. Oh,
dear, I ought to be a much better woman. I came from better stock than I
Grandma wanted to reward me, and so she left me her gold beads.
She always wore them - had them on when she died. She called me to
her bed one day, and said: 'When I'm gone, dear, I want you to have these.
You've been so good about waiting on me.' And so Grandma Perkins's
gold beads came to me as a legacy, but I didn't have sense enough to keep them.
A peddler came along one day and wanted to buy up gold. Ma thought
it would be a good idea to trade off my beads for silver spoons. I should
have stood up and said I wouldn't allow it. Later, the spoons were all
lost but one.
"From Grandma Perkins I heard many things about my mother's
family. Grandma Perkins, like Grandma Foster, had been a small girl when
the Revolutionary War broke out. Her name was Ann Caldwell. She had
helped to mould all the pewter platters of the Caldwell family into bullets, and
liked to tell about it. When the pewter platter were melted down, her
people used turned wooden ones. I remember that Aunt 'Liza had one of
those wooden plates and she used to let Sister Kate eat off of it.
"My grandmother was named Ann for her mother. I
remember some of the things she used to tell about her parents. It seems
that Great-grandfather Caldwell was short of stature, but well built, a very
healthy man. When he was past seventy he hadn't a decayed tooth in his
head, and would mount a horse from the ground with perfect ease. He became
a Christian early in life, an Irish Presbyterian. He was a good musician,
had a fine voice, and Grandma said that her children always loved to hear him
sing. In his old age, when he could not sleep well, he would sing at
night, not in a loud offensive way that would disturb the family, but in a sweet
low tone that they would love to listen to. In the morning he would say,
'Well, the angels came again last night.'
"Grandma's brother, James Caldwell, was in the
Revolutionary War and was taken prisoner. One of the stories I liked best
to hear Grandma Perkins tell was about that Great-uncle James. You know
that the British had bribed the Indians to help them fight the colonists, and so
it happened that when James was taken prisoner he was turned over to a company
of Indians to be conducted to a Canadian prison. The Indians were drunk.
They threatened to tomahawk him, and they tantalized him in various ways.
In crossing a river, he managed to wet their powder so that they could not
shoot. Instead of being enraged at that, they shouted and laughed and
called him brave and patted him on the back, and said: 'No hurt Brave!'
Soon after, they met another posse of Indians who had stolen a white baby
and had it lashed under a horse's belly. One of the child's arms was
dangling. Although he knew that he was on his way to prison, my
Great-uncle James begged or bought this baby - I do know how he got possession
of it, but he got it - and took it with him to prison. There he enlisted
the help of attendants so that he got milk enough to keep it alive and rags
enough to cover it. He washed it and fed it and took care of it in every
way as tenderly as a mother could have done. Finally, he and another
prisoner who was in the same cell with him dug their way out. The prison
was built of logs and was situated near the bank of some river. They swam
the river and escaped into their own country, taking the child with them. Many
people wanted to adopt the baby, but my great-uncle was determined to find its
mother. And he did, after two years' patient inquiry. I consider
that a better triumph than all the battles Napoleon ever won!"
With a mother who was one of fourteen children and a father who
was one of eight, little Maria Foster did not lack for uncles and aunts and
cousins while she was growing up. How rich in human sympathy and interest
seems the family life of those red-blooded days!
"Naturally," she said, "I saw a good deal of my
mother's sisters, who all lived near. I don't remember her brothers so
well. Uncle James and Uncle John lived on farms.
"At Uncle John's, we sometimes went fishing in the creek. I
remember Aunt Melissa frying the minnows for us that we caught there. And
I remember how exciting it was at their house when they renewed the backlog in
the fireplace. Queen, the family horse, would be hitched to a log big as a
tree truck and driven right into the house. Then, when the log was
deposited on the hearth and Queen was unhitched, the men would take crowbars and
roll the log into its place at the back of the chimney.
"All of my mother's sisters were pretty women with good
voices. My mother use to sing Irish songs she had learned from her mother.
There was one that I liked: -
"Erin, my country, thou sad and forsaken,
In dreams I revisit thy sea-beaten shore.
"I remember her singing it once when our singing teacher,
Mr. Runyon, was calling, and he thought it fine. All of the Culvers could
sing. The daughter of one of Grandma's grandsons - Helen Culver - has been
on the operatic stage in this country and Europe," Grandma Brown
"Well, my mother had a fine voice too," she
continued. "It lasted as long as she lived. We could all sting.
Houses in Athens were without musical instruments in my youth, - except
the fiddle, - but all the more reason for singing.
"Among my make relatives Uncle Hull, my father's brother,
held first place. He was, indeed, 'Uncle Hull' to the whole town. We
children loved him dearly and used to stay at his home weeks at a time. 'I
don't see why I couldn't have had a daughter,' he'd say, as he trotted me on his
knee. 'Eb had three. I adopted one, one time, but after a while she
took a notion to get married, and off she tilted."
"Uncle Hull was a maker of shoes, a calling that many
people of mechanical skill were tempted to follow in those days when
factory-made footwear was unknown and everybody had to be shod.
"Someone asked Uncle Hull one day how he learned the
shoemaker's trade," laughed Grandmother Brown. "'Just as a
cow learns kicking,' he answered. 'Out of my own head.'"
He was about seventeen years old when that idea came into his
head. For four years he traveled through the West and the Southwest,his
kit on his back, making shoes as he went, and seeing something of the country
that was afterward made into the states of Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and so
forth. Oh his return to Athens, he continued to make shoes for his fellow
citizens and kept it up until far advanced in years. Although, judged by
the standards of this artificial machine age, he seems to have been merely a
humble craftsman, it is evident, not only from Grandmother Brown's testimony,
but from various records, that "Uncle Hull" was an influential person
in the community which knew him. As he lived to be ninety-four years old,
his was long a familiar figure in the town of Athens. "A man of
strong sense, strict integrity, and marked force of character, his life and
virtues are known and read of all his neighbors," says Walker.
"Every word of that is true," cried Grandmother Brown
with enthusiasm. "To have known Uncle Hull was a joy. Just to
hear him coming made people look pleasant. I was at Grandpa Brown's one
day, when we heard sleigh bells. 'That's Uncle Hull,' cried someone.
Everybody perked up. We knew him by his chimes, the sweetest ones in
town. He was a great cut-up. Even in Church. His pew was in
the front row, and we girls had to be careful when we were singing in the choir,
for, if we'd catch his eye, he'd twist an eyebrow or raise a shoulder in such a
way as to make us laugh. I remember, that very day, when he came stamping
in through the snow and warmed himself at Grandpa Brown's fire, sitting in a
light chair that was rather a tight fit for his big body, how we laughed when he
got up and walked off with such an innocent expression, just as if he
didn't know that the chair was hanging to his settee! He couldn't help his
"After periods at the Brice House or in Logan or Somerset,
we were always glad to get back to our own father's dear old home. Nowhere
else did we have the same conveniences. We did most of our work there in
the summer kitchen. That was where we had the big brick oven. We
used to fire it twice a week and do a sight o' baking all at once. We'd
make a hot fire in the oven, and then, when, the bricks were thoroughly heated,
we'd scrape out all the coals with a big iron scraper, dump the coals into the
fireplace, and shove in the roasts and fowls, the pies and bread. At other
times we'd use the open fireplace. It wasn't nearly so difficult to work
by as people think. When we went to keeping house in 1845, Dan'l and I, he
bought me a little iron stove, a new thing in those days. It was so good,
and would only bake things on one side. I soon went back to cooking at an
"You know the look of andirons, crane, spit, reflectors.
Our heavy iron vessels were swung from chains. When we wanted to
lift the iron lids off, we'd have to reach in with a hook and swing them off.
They had a flange around the edge. Many of our dishes were baked in
Dutch ovens on the hearth. We used to bake Indian pone - that is, bread
made of rye and corn meal - that way. We would set it off in a corner of
the hearth covered with coals and ashes, and there it would bake slowly all
night long. In the morning the crust would be thick but soft - oh so good.
"For roasting meat we had reflectors. Some joints we
roasted in our big iron kettles with a bit of water. And others we put on
three-legged gridirons which could be turned. These had a little fluted
place for the gravy to run down. Chickens we could split down the back and
lay on the gridiron with a plate and flatirons on top to hold them down. Oh,
how different, how different, is everything now, encumbered with conveniences!
"The difference between those who were naturally clean and
orderly and those who were not was perhaps more marked in those days than it is
now. It was so easy, for instance, since we had no screens, to let the
flies spoil everything. My mother just wouldn't have it so. We
weren't allowed to bring apples into the house in summer, because apples attract
flies. If any of us dropped a speck of butter or cream on the floor, she
had to run at once for a cloth to wipe it up. Our kitchen floor was of
ash, and Ma was very proud of keeping it white. In the summer kitchen the
floor was of brick, and it was expected to be spotless also. At mealtime
someone stood and fanned to keep the flies away while the others ate. When
Sister Libbie went to housekeeping, she had little round-topped screens for
every dish on her table. That was considered quite stylish. Ma used
to set some tall thing in the centre of her table, spread a cloth over it, and
slip food under until we were ready to sit down. As soon as the meal was
finished, all curtains had to be pulled down and the flies driven from the
"Our dishes for common use were white with blue edges.
The finer ones were a figured blue. I remember, also, a large blue
soup tureen with a cover and a blue, long-handled ladle, all very handsome.
"Our folks were two-tined. They weren't much good for
holding some things. But if we used our knives for conveying food to our
mouths it had to be down with the back of the knife towards the face. We
had no napkins. We used our handkerchiefs. Tablecloths were made of
cotton diaper especially woven for the purpose. The first white bedspread
I ever had was made of two widths of that same cotton whitened on the grass.
"In warm weather we washed outdoors under the quince
bushes. We used our well water. It was so soft, it was just
beautiful. We'd draw a barrel of water, put one shovel of ashes into it,
and it would just suds up like soft warer, so white and clean. We used
soft soap, of course. Our starch was of two kinds - either made from a
dough of flour worked round and round until it was smooth and fine or made form
grated potato cooked to the right consistency.
"Ma put us girls to work early. It was taken as a
matter of course that we should learn all kinds of housework. I know that
before I was seven years old I used to wash the dishes. But our mother had
village girls to help her also. I remember one Ann Fierce who was with us
for years, but it seems to me that Sister Libbie and I usually did the washing.
There was need of many hands to get all the work done. It required
more knowledge to do the things for everyday living than is the case nowadays.
If one wants light now, all one has to do is pull a string or push a
button. Then, we had to pick up a coal with tongs, hold it against a
candle, and blow. And one had to make the candles, perhaps.
"I remember the first matches that I ever saw. Someone
handed me a little bunch of them, fastened together at the bottom in a solid
block of wood about a half inch square. 'Lucifer matches' they called
them. I tore one off and set the whole thing afire.
"Some people had tinder boxes. Some kept a kind of
punk which would give off a spark when struck with steel or knife. Generally
speaking, people kept the fire on their hearthstones going year in and year out.
"We did not make our candles at home, but got them usually
from Uncle Dean, who made candles for the town. I used to love to watch
him and Aunt Maria at work dipping candles - she with the hot tallow in a big
kettle on the hearth, he with stillyards beside him, weighing carefully. Occasionally
we had some sperm candles made of fine whale tallow. Besides candles,
people sometimes burned sperm or whale oil in little lamps that looked like
square-topped candlesticks. In the square top was a place for a bowl that
would hold perhaps a half pint of oil.
"Even without candle making, there was certainly a plenty
to do to keep life going in those days. Baking, washing, ironing, sewing,
kept us busy. Not to mention the spinning and weaving that had to be done
before cloth was available for the seamstress.
"My mother used to spin. She made beautiful fine
thread. She taught Sister Libbie how to spin, but decided, before my turn
came, that spinning was doomed to become a lost art, and that I might be better
employed in some other way. I used to love to watch her at the spinning
wheel. She had two wheels, lovely big ones. She used a wheel boy to
turn her wheel. I can just close my eyes and see Ma standing over there
spinning a thread as far as from here to the bed - say, twelve feet long.
"My mother and her sister had some beautiful woolen cloth
of their own spinning and weaving. Part of the thread was made with the
open, part with the crossed, band. They colored it with butternut bark,
but the tow kinds would never color alike, so that part of it was a light and
part a dark brown. They wove it into a plaid and had it pressed, and then
they made fine dresses out of it to wear to church. I remember, too, that
my mother raised flax, spun it into linen, wove it into cloth, - colored blue in
the yarn, - made it up into a dress for me which she embroidered in white above
the hem. I wish I had kept that dress to show my children the beautiful
work of their grandmother.
"Ma used to use Aunt Betsy's loom sometimes. When I
was eight years old, she wove me a plaid dress of which I was very proud. I
remember the pattern; eight threads of brown, then one of red, one of blue, one
of red, then brown again, both in the warp and in the woof. It made the
prettiest flannel, and that dress lasted me for years.
"Women made their own designs for cloth as well as for
dresses in those days. If a woman had taste, she had a chance to show it
in her weaving. But, oh, it was hard work. You never saw warping
bars, did you? Clumsy things, long as a bed. On them work was
prepared for the loom. You had to draw each thread through a reed. I
used to love to watch my mother weaving,k her shuttle holding the spool with
yarn shooting through the warp, then back the other way. When she had
woven as far as she could reach, she would bend below the loom and wind the
woven cloth into a roll beneath. Blankets made at home used to last a
long, long time. Homespun things were good.
"We had all the things that were really necessary for our
comfort in those days, and we had quite as much leisure as people have now.
Always, too, we had time to attend church and Sunday school.
"You see I had rather a severe course in Domestic Science,
but the rest of my education didn't amount to much. I must have been about
ten years old when I quit going to Grandma Foster's school."
"Then what?" I asked.
Laughter on Grandmother Brown's part. "Well, my
education was about completed. I've had to get along without anything more
than the fundamentals. It was always uncertain, even in our school days,
whether we could be spared from work. Some days we could go to school,
some days not.
"I use to be able to knit and read at the same time. Not
so fast, of course, as knitting with my eyes on the work. But once my
mother spoke sharply to me when I was knitting with my eyes on a newspaper.
She spoke twice, and I could hardly bring myself to hear her. At the
third call, Mr. Hatch snatched the paper from my lap and threw it into the fire.
No wonder I never learned anything!" There was bitterness in
Grandmother Brown's voice.
"When we lived at Logan, I went for a while to Mr. Parson's
school. I was thirteen years old then. I use to like the spelling
matches we had there. I remember getting a ticket for perfect spelling.
But I also remember having there the most unhappy experience of my school
"Nowadays, when children show a talent for anything good,
it is cultivated. I always liked to draw. One day I drew a cow upon
my slate. Mr. Hatch - who, with all his faults, was generally kind enough
to me - said: 'Now make a picture of our cow.' I did. 'Let
me show it to your mother!' he said. 'Why it's our cow!' she
exclaimed, and they were much surprised that I could make a picture of our
particular bossy. Once, in rare years on the farm, I amused myself one
rainy Sunday drawing pictures of Andy Brown and James Mitchell as they sat
talking together. 'Why, Mother, you're an artist!' Dan'l said, when I
showed him what I had done.
"I think I could have made pictures. I was always
wanting to try. I could draw animals and I wanted to make landscapes, too.
I remember once, when walking in the country with my mother, the scenery
was so beautiful that I just longed to make a picture of what I saw. I
wanted to sit and look and look. I sat so long upon a fence looking at the
scene that Ma came running back to find me and chided me for lingering. In
recent years, at a meeting of my D. A. R. chapter, I won the prize for drawing
from memory the best picture of George Washington. I was the oldest woman
"Well, one day at Mr. Parsons's school I drew on my slate a
picture of a lace veil. I drew the string that went around the bonnet and
showed the veil all puckered around the face with a heavy border at the bottom.
I made it so pretty. But Mr. Parsons came up behind me and
saw what I was doing. He took my slate, showed my picture to the school,
and scolded me for wasting time on things like that. I never did again.
I just wept. I thought I had committed a terrible sin. Mr.
Parsons was a slender, tall man, but I can't remember how he looked. I had
a dread of him. He cured me of trying to make pictures; I guess I can make
it the rest of the way.
"But, though I was not encouraged to be an artist, I've
always tried to make anything I had to make as beautiful as I could make it.
My pars of butter I made in pretty shapes. I've always liked to sew
and embroider. I've made some pretty things, if I do say it as shouldn't.
I learned once to make wax flowers and enjoyed doing that. I made
them well, too. I know that once when Dr. Rix and his wife were calling on
us here in Fort Madison he suddenly noticed a bunch of flowers that I had made
and put into a basket, and he called to his wife to come and see.
'Why, I thought they were real!' he said. But wax flowers are perishable,
and I'd rather do embroidery. That lasts longer."
"What did you have to read when you were a girl,
"Well, I remember Pilgrim's Progress. And
there was Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. I always
enjoyed poetry. I liked to read Cowper's poems. He was so fond of
his mother. He looked at her picture and said: -
"My mother! when I learn'd that thou wast dead,
Say, wast thou conscious of the tears I shed?
Hover'd they spirit o'er thy sorrowing son,
Wretch even then, life's journey just begun?
Perhaps thou gav'st me, though unfelt, a kiss;
Perhaps a tear, if souls can weep in bliss -
Ah, that maternal smile! it answers - Yes.
I heard the bell toll'd on thy burial day;
I saw the hearse that bore thee slow away;
And, turning from my nurs'ry window, drew
A long, long sigh, and wept a last adieu!
But was it such? It was. Where thou art gone
Adieus and farewells are a sound unknown.
May I but meet thee on that peaceful shore,
The parting word shall pass my lips no more!'"
That Grandmother Brown loved poetry no one could doubt, hearing
the fine appreciation with which she recited these noble lines.
"Every week we had Sunday-school books to read," she
went on. "They always had Christian teaching woven around the story
of some boy or girl. I remember the first time I read the story of the
Crucifixion. I read it through my tears. It was dreadful to my young
mind. It is yet. In the first place, God created the first man out
of dust of the earth. The first one He created without any earthly parent.
Then He created one out of the Virgin Mary. How terrible for her to
see her son crucified!
"A story that I read as a child that interested me was a
tale called Prairie Flower. It was the story of a pretty young girl
who was stolen by the Indians. There was going to be an eclipse of the
sun, a fact she knew. She told them that if they did so and so the sun
would be darkened. Sure enough, it was. From that time on, they
feared her and did as she directed."
"Did you have newspapers?"
"Yes, the first one I remember was one called the Western
Spectator, printed by a Mr. Maxon. Then came the Hocking Valley
Gazette, which Nelson Van Vorhes, who married Sister Libbie, later made into
the Athens Messenger.
"Two books were presented to me when I was fourteen and
sixteen years old that I set great store by. Nelson Van Vorhes, when he
was courting Libbie, gave me twelve copies of Godey's Lady's Book bound
into one volume. When I was about sixteen, a Mr. Cook, who boarded with
us, gave me a bound book of the Family Magazine. A careless person
at the farm left those books out in the rain in later years and they were
ruined. No money could have repaid me for those books. Wouldn't you
like to see the fashion plates in colors of the styles when I was sixteen years
old? But, oh dear, after a while we'll be in a place where books won't
matter. So why worry?"
"As you grew to womanhood, Grandmother Brown, I'm sure you
had some friends among the young men," said I.
"Of course. We had a good deal of attention, Libbie
and I. When I married, at age eighteen, I accepted the third offer,"
answered Grandmother Brown with pretty dignity. "We had plenty of
opportunity to have a gay time with young men, because at that time Mr. Hatch
was running the Brice House again, and many of the young men studying at the
college boarded with us. Some of them were from the South, sons of rich
planters, fine dressers and free with their money. But, although we waited
on them at table, we never spoke to them. In the dining room was a great
coffee urn kept hot by a heated iron rod that ran down the middle. We use
to draw the coffee from this urn and pass it to the boarders. Among them
was young man called 'Cap' Reed. 'Why don't you take those Foster girls
out somewhere?' he was asked one time. 'I'd just as soon think of asking
Queen Victoria for her company,' he answered. Later he married my lovely
cousin, Lucinda Dean. But his remark showed how we held ourselves aloof.
I remember that years afterward, when my mother visited me on the farm,
she said: 'Maria, you never gave me an anxious moment in my life and I
never put you to a task that wasn't well done.' Well, I am glad I never
hurt her. She had hurt enough."
"But surely you went out with some of the young men,
Grandmother," I said.
"Yes," she laughed, "of course; we went around
with the Athens boys. We went to picnics and dances, to singing school and
campaign rallies. I remember once driving with Dan'l out to Uncle Dickey's
, of going through an avenue of poplar trees and craning our necks to look up
and up. We just had to stop the carriage and look. You might have to
take two or three looks before you's get to the top!
"I remember going with other young people to see torchlight
processions at time of political excitement. We were in the Logan campaign
of 'Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.' Our Republican young men called themselves
'The Log Cabin Boys' and they sang: -
"Oh, Van (meaning President Van Buren), don't you
you're a used-up man?
For the Log Cabin Boys go for Harry of the West
And you'll soon see that you can't shine."
"They had a float with a live tame bear on it, also a log
cabin in which was a cider barrel. This float moved slowly through the
streets with young men marching before and after it, carrying lanterns and
torchlights, and singing their log-cabin songs. 'We'll beat little Van'
was the constant refrain. President Van Buren was very unpopular in that
part of the country. It was the time of shinplasters and financial
distress of the sharpest kind.
"In Athens our set would go out hunting wild flowers.
There are so many pretty hills around there, and in the spring they were
covered with dogwood blossoms and other lovely flowers. The grass was so
soft and deep you'd think you were walking on top of a feather bed. We'd
take along things to eat, things like pickled string beans and pickled peaches -
the clings were our choice. After you'd eat one of those, my but you could
"Our favorite amusement, I think, was singing. Everybody
went to singing school in those days and learned to sing with the help of a
tuning fork. I don't like to hear accompaniments. Better the voice
along. Dan'l's cousin, Perley Ward, had a song bird in her throat - I
never heard such a voice. I've no doubt it was equal to Jenny Lind's.
Dan'l himself taught singing school, and up to the last I loved to hear
him throw out his chest in church and let out the Doxology. That was
something worth hearing."
"Tell me some of the songs you used to sing,
"All right. This was one of our favorites: -
"The bright, rosy morning peeps over the hill
With the blushes adorning the meadows and fields,
While the merry, merry horn calls 'Come, come away!'
Awake from your slumbers and hail the new day.
The stag roams before us, away seems to fly
While he pants to the chorus of the hounds in full cry.
"I don't like the sentiment of that very much. It
sounds cruel, but that is what we used to sing.
"Then follow, follow music and the chase,
While pleasure and vigor and health we'll embrace.
"Here's a sad one - though the tune is nice - about a dying
girl saying as she draws near her home: -
"'Are we almost there?
Are we almost there? she'd ask.
'Are these our poplar trees
That rear their forms so high
Against heaven's blue dome?'
"Then comes something I don't remember. Afterwards, -
"Her quick pulse ceased,
She was almost there.
"That was something to hold us down a little, so we
shouldn't get too gay."
"What about dancing?"
"Oh, we liked that, too. I remember one night Libbie
and I were getting ready for bed - we'd been washing that day and were tired -
when a couple of young gentlemen came and asked us to go with them to Judge
Welch's house. Judge Welch was a fine violinist. He played for eight
of us to dance that night. Jim Hay was my escort. He married Lucy
Brown, a cousin of Dan'l's, but her mother wouldn't let her dance. Dan'l
didn't dance either, and so Jim Hay danced with me that winter. Here in my
scrapbook you can see a couple of invitations to dances that I've kept all these
I examined them with interest, one of them printed on blue, the
other on pink paper, and then I said banteringly: "But, Grandmother
Brown, you must have been a precocious belle. One of these invitations is
for a Fourth of July party at the Perry Hotel in 1839. You were only a
little over twelve then, and the other invitation is for a party at the American
House in Logan in 1841, just after you had celebrated your fourteenth birthday.
I'm surprised that your mother let you go!"
"But notice, my dear! The Independence Party - look
at the flag at the top of the invitation! - was at five o'clock, and the Union
Ball in Logan was at four in the afternoon. We kept early hours in those
days, so that even the children could safely go to dances."
"I'm sure they must have been lovely parties," I said,
studying the language of the pink invitation.
"Yes, I think so. But most of my dancing was done at
dancing school. When we lived in Logan, Mr. Saunders came from Lancaster
once a week to teach us. In Athens, I had lessons two terms from Mr.
Crippen. The dancing school always met in the afternoon, girls and boys
practising separately at first. When both had learned the steps, then we
came together. We danced to the music of fiddles, and they called off,
'First lady forward! Seven hands round.' There were no round dances.
Our teachers taught us to take little steps, to move forward and back
genteelly. With some pride and dignity! Why, I could do it now if I
were on my feet - one, two, three, four, five, then back again; six, seven,
eight, nine, ten. That was the way to do it - so rhythmically and
beautifully. Now they grab each other and go seesawing around. The
contradances took in the whole room. It was lovely to see them do it, the
girls so pretty and modest, in those days, their dresses ankle-length. When
they honored the partner, they didn't just squat that square way, but they must
lean to one side gracefully.
"When we were living on the farm I taught my children to
dance. Afterward, when Lizzie first came to Fort Madison, she was
complimented on her dancing. 'My mother taught me,' she said. A
shout went up. They thought her a wicked mother, I suppose, who would
teach her child to dance. But, if it had been wicked to dance, it would
say so in the Bible. If it had said, 'Thou shalt not dance," I would
not have done it, for I have kept all the Thou Shalt Nots. But it does say
that when the Prodigal Son came home and fell on his father's neck and kissed
him, the father put a ring on his finger and ordered music and dancing."
"And so you were married, Grandmother, when you were only
eighteen years old. How did it happen?"
"Well, perhaps it wouldn't have happened quite so soon if
my father had lived. But since I couldn't go to school any more, and
living at home meant for Libbie and me simply working for a lazy stepfather whom
we loved none too well, it was only natural that marriage should tempt me when
nice young men proposed it. As I said before, I had three offers by the
time I was eighteen. One of them was from a young man who was studying for
the ministry. The second proposal came from one who had considerable
money. He was a Catholic, but he wrote my mother that he's become a
Protestant if I'd have him. My mother and brother rather encouraged him,
but I had no love for him. He like to never give it up. He wrote to
my brother and he asked a friend to intercede for him. How foolish! But
then that's the way men do when they set about wanting a girl."
"And the third suitor, I suppose, was Grandfather
Brown?" I ventured.
"Yes, Dan'l. 'Dan Brown' nearly everybody else called
him. But I always called him 'Mister Brown' until we were married, and
then I called him 'Dan'l."
"How long had you known him?"
"Ever since I was born. In a way. You see, his
sister Maria was my Uncle Hull's second wife. When I was a new baby she
came, bringing that little boy to see me. He was five years old. She
used to tell that she said to him, 'Now this might be your wife some day!'
How true it's come about! I used to see him at Aunt Maria's, but not
to get acquainted. When I was a little girl I didn't pay much attention to
the company - I was more interested in Uncle Hull, who always made a great fuss
over us children when we went to see him. Then Dan'l's sister Emma had
married my father's cousin, Leonard Jewett, - a son of the doctor of early days,
- and I'd seen him going over there. I remember watching that boy go back
and forth, they boy with the palm-leaf hat that had a narrow green ribbon round
it. I never forgot that little white hat - it looked so clean and bright.
"His folks lived in the country, a mile from the town of
Albany. They had come there from Amesville a couple of years before Dan'l
was born. Dan'l's father, William Brown, was the second son of Captain
Benjamin Brown, an officer of the Revolution, whose people had been prominent
for several generations in Worcester County, Massachusetts. Captain
Benjamin was one of the first pioneers to hack his way from Ohio into the
interior. He died the year before Dan'l was born but we often heard old
settlers around Ames - which he helped to found - speak of him and his doings.
He must have been a forceful person even for those days. His older
children, including Dan'l's father, settled on farms around Ames, but these two
youngest sons, John and Archibald, were living in Athens when I was growing up.
Captain Benjamin spent his last days in Athens with John, who was
prominent in the militia and known all over southern Ohio as 'General' John
Brown. 'Uncle General' was much beloved. He was very genial and
witty. We loved to go to parties at the Brown House. He was honored,
too, for his good judgment and integrity. He was treasurer of Ohio
University for half a century. His brother Archibald, Dan'ls youngest
uncle, was a trustee of the university and an important Ohio judge. Seems
to me I've heard he was a member of the convention that framed the present
constitution of Ohio. The young Browns were a bookish lot, - those who
grew up in Ohio, - Dan'l's father was nearly grown when they migrated, and
never had an opportunity to get far from a farm.
"The farm at Albany was small, and four sons rather
overmanned it, I suppose; so when Dan'l was about thirteen he was apprenticed to
Ezra Stewart and came to live in Athens. Dan'l was the youngest of eight.
"Dan'l's mother was a Brown, too, daughter of Esquire
Samuel Brown, a nephew of Captain Benjamin's. Her name was Polly. You
ask about Dan'l's mother," continued Grandmother Brown reflectively.
"I could never get acquainted with her. There was a chilly
atmosphere about her which I could not penetrate. It seems to me that I
never saw her smile. But, though Dan'l's mother seemed cold to me, I
realize that she was a very smart, capable woman. She taught Dan'l to spin
when he was a little boy. He had to do his stint each day. She made
the linen diaper called bird's-eye, and she made very beautiful linen sheets for
the beds. She was a women of strongly marked character. Her face
showed that. She had what you might call advanced ideas. She was a
great reader. Every afternoon she'd take her paper and lie down on the bed
to read. She knew more about politics than any woman I ever met. She
was an abolitionist in politics and a Universalist in religion. Not
exactly popular causes. She rather courted argument on those subjects, and
they used to say that she was hard to beat in discussion, for she read so much
that she always had an answer that was pat. She was above the average
woman all round.
"I was at the Brown home only once before I married
Dan'l," continued Grandmother Brown. "He drove me out once to
spend the night. The house was large and comfortable, built of hewed logs
and finished inside with walnut paneling. That was handsome, but made the
interior seem rather dark. In the best room and the bedroom off of it,
where I slept that night with Liddy Ann, were light curtains that relieved the
"From the time he was apprenticed at age thirteen until he
was twenty-one, Dan'l lived in Athens. Ezra Stewart had a general store
and also conducted an extensive cattle business. He supplied the community
with every kind of merchandise it needed. Codfish and molasses, iron and
anils, pins and ploughs. He took his payment often in cattle and horses,
hogs and sheep, selling them to the Eastern and Southern markets. At
first, Dan'l was just a long-legged little boy helping around the store and
going back and forth to the homes of his sisters, Maria and Emma. When he
grew older he used to go east with the men driving herds of cattle across the
Alleghenies all the way, sometimes to Philadelphia. They always used to
have one horse and two or three men going along with drove of cattle, because
often one of the steers would take a start in the wrong direction and it would
be necessary then for the rider of the horse to head it off and get it going the
right direction. When Dan'l was twenty-one he went into business for
himself at Amesville with Austin Dickey, who was his mother's nephew. Dan'l
had saved five hundred dollars in his seven years' apprenticeship, and 'Aut'
Dickey's father, a well-to-do farmer, gave Aut a like sum. They set up a
general store and merchandising business under the firm name of Brown and
"Tell me what Grandfather Brown looked like in his
"Well, Dan'l was tall and splendidly developed. At
that time, he weighed about 180 pounds. Later, he came to weigh 200
pounds, finally 210, but he was never the least bit fat. He was a
good-looking, quick-speaking young man with brown hair, light blue eyes, a
friendly smile, and rather a sallow skin. Dan'l used to say that his
parents both being Browns was the reason he was so brown!
"After Dan'l began to pay attention to me I would never go
to Stewart's store, for fear folks would say I was going in there to hang over
the counter with Dan Brown. But about that time he came to the Brice House
to board. The first time I remember his ever noticing me was one day when
everybody else was at dinner that I sat in the front room by the window. He
came by and stopped to speak to me. We looked at each other. That
was nothing, but I remember it. And I remember also getting a real love
letter from him once when he had gone east with a drove of cattle for Stewart -
a love letter with a leaf of wintergreen in it.
"After we left the Brice House and went back to our old
home, Dan'l would come up there in the evening to see me when the store was
closed. His friend Nelson Van Vorhes was courting Libbie, and sometimes
he'd come along. I would usually be knitting. I'd say to Mary and
Ann, my little half-sisters, 'I'll knit for one of you to-night, the one that
gets her work to me the first.' How they'd scramble! 'Here, Maria,
here! Take mine!' One time, I remember, while I sat knitting with
Dan'l near by watching and talking, Mr. Hatch popped in on us with a plate of
doughnuts. Sometimes Dan'l would take me to dances, but he couldn't dance
"One night some of us were invited to a party at Uncle
General's. Uncle Dean drove us there - his girls and Libbie and me - in
his fine carriage. He told u, as he set us down, that he'd come for us at
a certain time and not to keep him waiting. At the party we got to playing
'Pon Honor. You know what that is? You make a pile of hands, then
pull them out according to number, and the one that's left has to answer all
questions asked him, truthfully, upon his honor. We all put our ring hands
on the pile. There was no ring on my hand. Dan'l said, 'I'll lend
you mine.' Afterward, when Dan'l had gone into the hall, Uncle Dean
came for us, hurrying us along in his quick way. 'Oh, Mr. Brown, here's
your ring.' I called. 'Give it to me some other time,' he answered.
I didn't want to keep it, and when I got home I woke Ma up to tell her I
had Dan'l Brown's ring. 'Child, go to bed and don't worry about it,' she
said. A few nights after that I went to singing school. Dan'l was
there and I offered him his ring. 'Just keep it a while,' he said, backing
off when I held it out. 'I'll tell you. When you get tired of me,
just hand me the ring!"
"I never gave it back. Behold the result! Here
I sit with one of his boys taking care of me - some eighty years after."
"How did he make sure you would be his girl?" I
"Oh, I don't know. Lizzie says he told her once,
'Your mother was the prettiest girl I ever saw.' Perhaps he told me
that at the time.
"He asked my mother's permission to marry me right before
my face. She came in to where we were sitting and he suddenly said, 'Mrs.
Hatch, I have a boon to ask of you.' 'What's that?' 'I want you to
give me your daughter.' I didn't know he was going to say it then. When
the day of our wedding came, the double wedding, - of Libbie and Nelson, and
Dan'l and me, - Ma wasn't there to see us married. They had to work to
keep her from fainting. It touched her very much.
"We were married on the twenty-third day of October, 1845,
at eleven o'clock in the morning in the best room of our old house, by the
Reverend S. M. Aston, who was a friend. There were no bridesmaids, no
presents. Those things had not come in fashion then. We didn't set
out to have a big wedding, but when we had assembled all the Fosters and the Van
Vorheses and the Browns it made a big company. I know it took two turkeys
for the wedding dinner.
"What else was on the menu? Pound cake at that time
took the lead. We had fruit and pickles, mince pie, a good fat dinner.
"What did the brides wear? Oh, our dresses were
alike, of course. Except in the sleeves. Libbie's sleeves were
short, mine were long. I never did like to show my arms. Why not?
Oh, I just didn't. There's nothing wrong with them, either. Once
a woman who worked for me, seeing my sleeves rolled up as I worked, said if she
had arms like mine she'd never wear sleeves at all! Well, the dresses were
white. They were made with tucks and lace. That fine, soft, switchy
stuff. I forget what they called it. Oh, yes - India mull! The
skirts were plenty full. Girls look so much better with their skirts full
enough across the back so they don't draw. Persons should make their
clothes according to their figures. At least, that's my taste! We
wore white kid shoes and we had orange blossoms in our hair. At the time
we were married it was the fashion to part the hair on each side, pulling it
straight back in the middle and gathering it behind each ear into a bunch of
curls, which we held in place with side combs.
"After the ceremony we young people had a round of parties.
First we drove out to the country to Grandpa Brown's. There were
fourteen carriages of us. Much joking and laughter, of course. Some
of it at the expense of Dan'l and me! The slope in front of our house was
awfully steep, and the buggy stood on a side hill. I got in first. Then
Dan'l went around on the other side to get in. When he put his foot on the
step, the buggy tipped over with him. In a minute we should both have been
in the dust, had I not sprung out and back to the step. I was pretty fleet
of foot always.
"Finally we were off, Libbie and Nelson at the head of the
procession. But after a while there was a halt and a cry down the line.
'The bride's lost her slipper!' Swinging her foot over the side of
the light buggy, Libbie had swung off her slipper.
"We had laid off our white wedding gowns and put on dresses
of balzarine, an open-meshed, figured cotton goods with a pattern of fern leaves
on a blue ground. Very pretty. Our dresses were made with pointed
waists and full skirts. We wore bonnets of fine white braid lined with
pink sarcenet and trimmed with white ribbon on which were pink flowers. Our
stockings were white, our slippers black. We looked very nice. When
we passed the college, driving out to Albany, all the students came out and gave
us three rousing cheers. Just to think! I am the only one now living
of all that company.
"You ask how could so many of us be stowed away for the
right at Grandpa Brown's? Well, Uncle John Culver and his wife, Aunt
Melissa, lived on a farm not far from Dan'l 's sister - were living, at that
time, on a farm near by. And Dan'l's two married brothers, Austin and
Leonard, had their farms, too. There was no trouble providing for
everybody. Oh, what a time that was!
"The next day we drove back to Athens and had a party at
the Van Vorhes home, and the next day to Amesville, where Dan'l and I were to
live. There was a party for us at the Ferris House, where Dan'l had been
boarding - a big dance. There had been no dancing at our wedding. It
seems to me out of place to have dancing at a wedding, but, when with Romans, do
as Romans do. Dan'l was always so proud of my dancing. He didn't
even dance, but he had his partner, Aut Dickey, lead off with me in the
contradance. They asked what music I'd like best and I chose 'Money Musk!'
Afterward, Mr. Ferris's little daughter came and leaned against my knee,
whispering: 'You were the prettiest dancer of all!' The next day we
drove to Uncle Dickey's and had another party. That ended it. Our
marriage life began. My happy childhood was over."