By Elinor Jones Gage




Using books and notes from Harold (Hal) Ladd (recently loaned to Edward Ladd by Nan, Harold’s wife) and an accumulation of notes from my mother (Carrie Ladd Jones), grandmother (Mary Ellen Skewis Ladd), my Aunt Allie Ladd, and notes and scraps (many unsigned and undated) which they had kept, I resolve to put into writing the things I know about my mother’s family at this date.

I will not write many unimportant details that embellished the tales I loved as a child--like my mother’s falling into a hog wallow on her way to school and making us feel the consternation which finding another wearable outfit caused in that three-room pioneer house on the Iowa prairies (six children there, by then, only four school age and mother supposed to be their caretaker! How did they all bear such life?).

I shall record some of the details which I heard as a child and probably am the only living person to recall. At the same time I know each of my cousins heard the memories of one of those children and should be adding to this record. I hope you will.

I picked up a lot of family lore because I adored my grandmother and spent every moment I could with her and Aunt Allie. My mother was a dramatic story-teller and I heard her tales in my childhood and for the twenty-five years she lived in Dan’s and my home as pretty much of an invalid.

The things I know are heavily weighted toward Skewis details because even Grandpa Ladd hardly knew his New England father, and with Azel P. Ladd most Ladd family talk vanished.

Hal traveled around Massachusetts in search for Ladds--even wrote to genealogical searchers in England-- and purchased three books (George Wingate Chase: History of Haverhill, Massachusetts, 1861; William J. Whitcher: History of the Town of Haverhill, N.H., 1919; Warren Ladd: The Ladd Family, 1890).

Haverhill, N.H. is a tiny town (300 people in 1970) on the Connecticut River halfway up the state and 30 or 40 miles west of Haverhill, Mass., which is on the northeast edge of that state. The New Hampshire town was founded by settlers from the Massachusetts town and our ancestors went there with colonists in about 1765.

The Chase and Whitcher books are repetitive on early Ladd details and we must remember that later than 1765 Ladd houses and Massachusetts do not concern our ancestors; they are collateral.

The Ladd book Hal must have found in a second-hand shop. It is worn (some of the pages have been tipped in, out of order) and was once owned by a George E. Ladd of Southville. There are some loose notes in it made by George.

George is one of the collateral relatives, but maybe Azel knew him as a young man teaching in Massachusetts and gave his name to our grandfather. Who Knows? He was about Azel's age and was a Civil War soldier.

George's family did not keep the book, and maybe that should indicate to me that ancestor-hunting is fun only to the person who likes to detect facts or inferences from little-apparent threads and that nobody else will care if I do this or not. But here it is--what I know or deduce in July 1980.

Elinor Jones Gage


The Ladds came from England and tracing our exact ancestor, Daniel, who emigrated in 1633, has not been possible.

Three other Ladds came early to America: Joseph to Rhode Island in 1644; John to Burlington, N.J. in 1687 and John to rural Virginia in 1673.

Warren Ladd thinks the two Johns were related to each other; John of Burlington was a Quaker. He thinks perhaps Joseph was a younger brother of Daniel.

Neither Joseph nor our ancestor could write his name, incidentally. Their legal papers throughout life bore a witnessed mark.

However, no relationship between the four men could be found, so there are lots of Ladds in the U.S. who are not related to us.

The Ladd book concentrates on Warren Ladd and our ancestor, Daniel. I was happy to learn that his searches in England (and Hal’s) were no more successful than my half-tried ones in 1966 and 1972-73.


Ladds in England

There have been Ladds in England since William the Conqueror’s men settled, mostly in Kent. Ladds were recorded near Deal, but, by the time of American colonization, they had spread to Surrey, Hampshire, and Norfolk.

Some Ladds concentrated around Canterbury, where they once owned Bowick Manor. One Ladd was made baronet by George II, the title not inherited. But that was too late to apply to our 17th century immigrant.

As was custom of the times, the Ladd name varied in spelling. Lad, Lade, Ladde, Ladda, Ladd, DeLade--they are all recorded in British tax rolls and other documents.

Coming to America


No evidence has been found to let us know who Daniel was, where he came from, how old he was, or what motives, like religion or politics, caused him to, on March 24, 1633, take the oath of allegiance to England so that he could pass to New England on the ship The Mary and John of London.

We do know that, on February 5, 1637, Daniel Ladd became owner of six acres of land in Ipswich, Mass. On it he built a dwelling and planted an orchard and garden.

He sold this land in March 1648 and moved to Salisbury, Mass. as one of its first settlers. He accumulated several tracts there and sold them to go to Haverhill, Mass. with the first settlers there in 1654.

In Haverhill, he acquired title to a house lot, nine acres on the river, five acres of median (all described as “more or less” and boundaries described as lines between neighbors, sometimes aligned to a natural rise or a stake beside a tree! What a field for future litigation!) He kept buying and selling.

By 1678, his wife Ann was making her mark on deeds. Who she was or when they were married is not recorded, but before 1678 he was signing as Daniel Ladd, Senior, and his witnesses were son-in-law Josiah Gage and Caleb Richardson. So Ann must have been in the picture for some time.

Doing well


Daniel was doing well in Haverhill, and, by the time of his death, had been a Selectman, had seen his children marry well and had accumulated an estate of perhaps 130 pounds at his death, July 27, 1693 (age unrecorded).


Daniel’s children


A daughter Elizabeth was born in Salisbury in 1640. Daniel and Lydia were born there, too. Three other children were born in Haverhill, Mass., including our ancestor, Samuel, the sixth child, born November 1, 1649.

Chase writes that Daniel Ladd, in 1650, doubtless found farming different from “our times” (1861). His house lot was in the village. His planting ground was partly “up the great river” (the Merrimac) a couple miles west of the village. His meadow lands (for grazing and hay) were in distant areas, none connected and all two to eight miles from the house.

Chase adds that we must re member that roads were just cart paths through the woods, with stumps still standing, hills ungraded, and streams unbridged. Chase and Witcher often quote speakers and writers who became eloquent about the pluck and determination of the new Americans. We can only agree from the story of our family.

Daniel’s son, Samuel, married Martha Corliss in 1674. Twenty- four years and 10 legitimate children later he met a dramatic death.

Captured by Indians


The Ladd book ignores a reference, made by Chase, that Samuel was involved in a long-time affair with a spinster who finally was executed for murdering her children, fathered by a married citizen, known to be Samuel Ladd.

But on that day in 1698 Samuel and his son Daniel, then 22 years old and our ancestor, went with an elderly neighbor and his son, using two ox teams and a couple of horses, to bring hay into the village from outlying land.

They were ambushed by Indians, the fathers killed and the sons captured. Daniel managed to free his father’s horse. The horse went home and so gave the news.

Daniel tried unsuccessfully to escape from the Indian camp and had, as punishment, his face gashed, the cuts filled with gunpowder, his arms tied, a foot lashed to a tree and he was kept lying on his back for two weeks.

A couple of years later he did escape and returned home, always to be known, because of his scars, as the “marked man.”

Daniel married Susanna L. Hartshorn in 1701. Of their six children, the fourth, also Daniel, was born November 15, 1710, and is our ancestor.

Daniel, the father, died in 1751. For my children I record that Ruth, the youngest girl and fifth child, born 1712, married James Haseltine, a name in Gage records.

Daniel Ladd, who was born in 1710, married Mehitable Roberts in 1733. They had 12 children. The sixth, another Samuel, was born November 9, 1744, and is our ancestor.

The third son, Ezekiel, moved with the first settlers to Haverhill, New Hampshire in 1765. He was closely followed by seven of Daniel and Mehitable’s other children.

Ladd Street


They settled on Ladd Street (where else with eight families of the name?) and were important in village offices although the name was gone from the village records by the time Witcher wrote his book.

Samuel (born 1744) married Martha Hulbert in 1769. She died, five children later, the mother of our ancestor: her first son, William, born March 8, 1770.

Samuel married again in 1794, a widow named Cynthia Hastings Arnold. She had two children at that time and six others by Samuel.

Strangely, in fact, deaths or lapses in regular births seldom appear in the family lists. Almost all the children attained adulthood. We were a hardy stock.

Samuel was keeping a tavern at the time of his marriage to Cynthia, who was a doctor’s widow. She died in 1858. Witcher gives Samuel’s death as 1915, probably a misprint for 1815 which would have made him 71. If she were 20 when married she would have been 84--an old age.

Publican Samuel’s son William, born 1770, married Abigail Spaulding and he died in 1823. Of his six children who lived, the only boy, and fifth child, was our great grandfather, Azel Parkhurst.

Cynthia Ladd


The sixth child was another Cynthia. The Ladd book has no more details about her, but my mother has a note about this great aunt of ours.

Cynthia first married a man named Amariah Allen.

Her second husband was a man with whom she moved, as our great grandfather did, to Shullsburg, Wis. Mother always called him “Uncle J.P. Williams’ ‘-- always the whole name. He was a banker, wealthy by Ladd standards, and very helpful to our grandfather’s widowed mother. Aunt Allie’s middle name honored him.

Abigail Spaulding was the daughter of Benjamin Spaulding (1720-1807) and his wife Rachel Crary (1729-1824) who married in 1756. Benjamin was the ancestor to whom my mother traced eligibility to the Daughters of the American Revolution. (It was a short membership; my mother resigned--as did Eleanor Roosevelt--over the Marian Anderson concert ruckus.)


In the Revolution


Benjamin was a captain (not a very high rank to attain in the locally raised army groups of the Revolution) in Col. Moses Nichols’ regiment which was gathered in New Hampshire for the defense of West Point. Our great grandfather’s unusual name, Azel, came from Abigail’s older sister’s husband.

The Revolution was a bit of a problem, geographically because Haverhill, N.H. was in a position to be important to the British. However, the Massachusetts origin of the Haverhill folk won out and 119 men were on service rolls; several Ladds were included, but only Samuel of our line.

We learn little of William and Abigail, probably because his son, our great grandfather, moved away and into professions not before recorded in the family, and then died so young in far-away Wisconsin. He didn’t have time to tell his young sons about Haverhill.


Azel Ladd


Azel was born in 1811 and married Louisa Maria Burrill in 1845. She pronounced her name in the New England fashion--Lu-wize-a Ma-rye-a. Azel was a teacher in Westport (whether New Hampshire or Massachusetts the records do not say) and then in New Bedford, Mass. in both a public school and a private academy where Louisa was his pupil.

He left the teaching profession to study medicine with Dr. Lyman Bartlett in New Bedford, and stayed in touch with Louisa by writing her in French.

I remember the night in the house in Rock Rapids that Aunt Allie “cleaned out” grandmother Louisa’s old trunk which she had carried to Wisconsin, to Kansas, and back to Inwood, Iowa. Grandpa George Ladd had kept her things in it and it was in the old coal house in Rock Rapids at his death.

That summer Aunt Allie was very troubled and she went through all the mementos. I remember as she burned those letters she explained to me that nobody could read them--they were in French! Surely a school girl’s French would have to slip into English in some spots in her love letters, but we do not have them now.

I have two lovely things she embroidered for him then--a scent box and a book mark--done as she waited for him to learn enough medicine for them to marry and move to Shullsburg, Wisconsin in 1845. (The Ladd book spells the town Shellsburg.) Sometime in this period Azel was offered the post of United States Minister to Australia, but he declined.


The Shullsburg boys


In Wisconsin, the Ladds had a son every two years: Andrew in 1846; Frank and a twin, Alice, who died as a baby, in 1848; George in 1850; William in 1852.


George’s brothers


Perhaps this is the time to mention the little I know about our grandfather’s brothers.

The boys went separate ways soon after their father’s death in 1854:

Andrew went to Ladd relatives in New England, who educated him. After Civil War service he became a lawyer in Clarion, Iowa. He married Eugenia Severe by whom he had four daughters: Clara (unmarried); Bertha (Mrs. Earl Bryant); Edna (Mrs. John Lundblad); and Gladys Anderson. Andrew became pretty well-to-do and was a civic leader. He died January 14, 1925.

William Ladd married Clara Cothren and was always a farmer in Wisconsin. How we loved the sacks of black walnuts he often set us in South Dakota. We look my mother to call on his son and daughter in the summer of 1954 in Wisconsin. I suppose Schuyler, the son, or his son, may still be a merchant in Dodgeville.

Frank married Mina Bailey and moved to Kansas where he farmed. In 1983, I found Aunt Mina’s name listed in a book as a pioneer Kansas woman.

Grandmother Louisa lived with them for a time and left there some furniture, principally a desk containing family papers. My husband copied some of these when Frank’s daughter Mina Lou loaned them to my mother. Those we saw concerned Azel’s Wisconsin career.

Frank’s son Bert (who lived with the Inwood family for a time and married the Larson, or Larsen, girl next door to the Ladds) had a daughter, Margaret Ladd Pierce, who collected that branch’s papers and once offered them to the Wisconsin Historical Society’s library. Perhaps they are in Madison.

Frank’s daughter Nettie lived in Montana for a time and Hal and Anita knew her. She was a marvelous photographer and lived in Rock Rapids for a time. I have lovely photos of Grandmother Mary Ellen which she took then.

Nettle’s sister, Mina Lou, was a favorite of our branch and when I first heard her name she was one of those vanished artisans called “milliners.”

She and Nettie ended life together in a Missouri village where my mother, Aunt Allie, Aunt Minnie, and Uncle Earl visited them. Mina Lou once spent several weeks with us in Decatur, maybe in the 1950s. There was a brother in Oregon. Lois and Eda knew his family.

I now concentrate on the family of George Ladd, our grandfather. He was between three and four years of age when his father Azel, the pioneer physician, died.

Azel made quite a name for himself in Wisconsin. He was involved in state politics, the first state superintendent of public instruction although he always lived in Shullsburg. One of the letters Mina Lou had was written by an aspiring office holder who wanted Azel’s endorsement.

In a “cholera epidemic” in 1854 he was working as a physician night and day. The problem seemed to be rotted food stored in flooded basements, and Azel cleaned out the mess in one house where everyone was sick. He collapsed and died, 42 years old, and his name lived long in the Shullsburg area as a dedicated doctor.

Louisa, at 34, was equipped neither to be a pioneer nor the mother of boys. She tried, but could not manage. In 1860, ten- year-old George went to the farm of distant relatives, the Howdells of Mifflin, to “earn his keep” and with a promise, never fulfilled, to go to school.

That year his mother married a widower in Mifflin, a merchant named John Clayton.

By age 15, George was really on his own, working at any sort of job until, when he was 20, “uncle” John K. Williams put George in charge of his White Oak Springs farm and he could marry Mary Ellen Skewis, just 18, who was having a rough time at home.

Mary Ellen Skewis, who Grandpa always called Nell, was the oldest child of Absalom Skewis and Jane Trelore Osborne. When the British mines in Cornwall shut down in the mid-nineteenth century, Absalom emigrated in 1849 to the United States to mine, mostly for lead in Wisconsin.

Many Cornish people, some his relatives, lived around there--in Mineral Point, Darlington, Shullsburg and into Illinois at Scales Mound and Galena--towns more like England than America.

Absalom earned some money and went home to Cambourne, England, for a wife. He found Jane Trelore Osborne.

There are lots of Osbornes buried near Cambourne Church and many other names on the stones which recall the names of Shullsburg friends and cousins-Rule, Oates, Raveling, Williams, Terrill.

By that time, Jane’s family and the Skewises were “chapel’’ (Methodist) and so were the English in Wisconsin. In 1966, Dan and I talked to old-timers in Cambourne and found no Skewises. We were told only one Trelore remained in the parish, he (Ben by name) on an isolated farm place and too senile to talk to us.

In 1973, we found a shattered Skewis stone in a pile of church yard rubble. We pieced together a memorial to a bachelor William Skewes of Givinear who died in 1807 at 73, the stone erected by an orphan boy he had befriended. Dorothy Skewis had found the stone earlier in much better shape.

We saw many tin mine works, enjoyed the lovely church grounds, and appreciated the poverty which must have driven the people away.

Skewis is also spelled Scewis, Scues, Skewes and is perhaps of Scandinavian origin; it is not pre-Norman English. Trelore is also spelled Treloar. Tre is a typical Cornish beginning.

Jane was probably of a better family than Absalom; she brought nice things in her trousseau and Trelores are listed as landed gentry.


Jane and Absalom


After making a betrothal, Absalom went back to Wisconsin to work with his cousins ($50 would purchase a digging area on a farm and it might produce $20 a day with three or four men working it).

Jane joined him later. A diary of Absalom’s cousin James’s memoirs which his grand daughter Dorothy Skewis has (and Edward Ladd has a copy) tells of Skewis life in Wisconsin and later in Iowa.

Absalom was a nasty character. Grandmother Ladd told me she hated alcohol because the only way to prevent his brutality at home was to meet her father at the mine head when work was over with “a bucket of suds.”

Jane had five children: Mary Ellen (our grandmother) in 1851, Emily Jane in 1854, Elizabeth Adeline Treylor (sic in family records) in 1857 (she died at age six months), John Rule in 1858, and Bennett Osborne in 1862.

Jane died in 1866 of “quick consumption” (now probably pneumonia) but had been frail for several years, and 15-year-old Mary Ellen was already out of school and housekeeper.


Jane’s children separate


Three years after Jane’s death, Absalom married a widow (Mrs. Hammond) with three children of her own. Mary Ellen then married George Ladd. I have a picture taken of her then and she was lovely.

Emily and John went to live with relatives who had a hotel. I don’t know how Ben fared then but he was the successful one of the brood. He eventually married Martha Martin of Scales Mound and moved to Tacoma, Washington. He was quite prosperous. I remember him as a very handsome, happy, beautifully mannered and groomed man whom I simply loved. He died July 19, 1924. Emily and John married a Spensley brother and sister, Francis (Frank) and Jane.

Aunt Em had no children but coddled and supported (financially) Uncle Frank. She was a beautiful seamstress and housekeeper, working in a big Sioux City, Iowa, department store as chief of alterations for many years. She died just before I married, in the Depression, and I happily inherited beautiful dining room chairs and such practical necessities as a potato masher.

John had three Sons and then a daughter. I guess he was an irresponsible tyrant, married to a lovely woman. He had no money when Aunt Jane died. So Grandpa Ladd paid for a funeral and she was buried on the Ladd lot near Grandmother Louisa.

The boys were farmers, pleasant men with nice wives, as I remember them. Nina served as a role model for me in early adolescence. She was sweet and good clear through, and I spent hours and days in her home when she was in high school and after she married.

Absalom’s father came to Shullsburg on a visit, and I think stayed there sometime, died and was buried there, Aunt Allie once said as she gave me a lovely picture of him--something like a daguerreo-type in a velvet-lined case. I had not known this and did not ask her for details; neither can I find it in my mother’s notes.

Absalom died at 54 of cancer of the stomach in Scales Mound. Grandma kept a hand-written copy of his obituary, which I have. It assured him of a lovely heaven because he became a chapel convert at the age of 19.

Grandma kept in touch with the Hammond daughter for years.


George and Mary Ellen


This was the background that Grandma Ladd brought to the new family. While they lived at White Oaks Springs, Clarence was born in 1871 and Carrie in 1873.

The parents were just children, too, and the day after Carrie was born, George simply “had to go” to Shullsburg to see a traveling circus. But he brought home a lovely walnut, spool bed style, cradle.

All of the other children, most of the grandchildren, and many others were rocked in it. It is one of my dearest treasures, but I’d loan it to a Ladd.

Will came in 1875, and they moved to another Williams farm before Allie’s birth in 1877. Grandmother was not well and there seemed little chance to make money so they decided to move west and went to Iowa for Jennie’s birth in 1880.

Early in the spring, Grandfather took the Milwaukee train to northwest Iowa. The James Skewises were already there, as were several other Shullsburg families.

He rented a place with his brother-in-law, John, and re turned to Wisconsin to sell the sheep for some calves and a little cash. Then he leased a box car and packed his stock (34 cows and 6 horses), his machinery and some essential furniture into it.

In charge of his property, he set out for the end of the line in Rock Valley, Lyon County, Iowa, on April 5, 1881. There were many delays. The roadbed was soft from melting snow and rain, the tracks often under water.

Sometimes the train waited at town sidings, sometimes it had to be backed up to a town and they would wait-- always with those animals to be cared for.
When both my grandparent families talked of those trips west with all their goods in a freight car, I never imagined until I was old enough to contemplate that enormous job of “housekeeping” and by then they were gone.

Just think how terrible it must have been in that closed up car, the animals penned so they would not fall with the jerks and jolts of railroad travel, and the people caring for them while moving or stopping for days or hours at a siding.

I suppose Uncle John Skewis was with Grandpa. They arrived in Rock Valley on May 3. The animals were driven to the farm and put into barns. Grandpa and Uncle John then went to Canton, South Dakota, to buy supplies for Uncle John to “batch.”

They made it just in time to help Tom Stapleton, another Cornish Shullsburg man, drive and swim his stock over the Sioux River into South Dakota where he would start farming near Sioux Falls.

Years later, Tom’s daughter would become our Uncle Clarence’s wife at a big, “society” wedding in Sioux Falls. It was a grand affair and I, a college sophomore, had a new lavender dress for it. Lavender was not suitable for my age, my mother said, but she had given up on my clothes ideas the year before and had let me wear black taffeta.

Aunt Minnie approved and made the dress. My father and I noticeably giggled at the gaffs of one hapless socialite, making it a bad day for my mother’s standards.

“Old” Tom Stapleton was very loudly pleased at the marriage and spent money in accord with the very real wealth he had found in prairie land. After settling the livestock in 1881, Grandfather returned to Shullsburg, leaving Uncle John at the farm.

Grandma Mary Ellen had waited with kin, probably having the first rest of her life.

While she waited, she and “Aunt Lizzie Tangey” had pictures made of themselves and their eldest daughters. Grandmas black hair was quite light. (She would have totally white, simply gorgeous hair at age 30. She used to give me a prize to brush it and search for a black hair.)

They had separate pictures made of my mother, wearing artfully constructed ringlets and somebody’s garnet broach. There were two of Aunt Allie--snapping black eyes and striped hand-knit stockings.

When Grandpa was ready in late July, they boarded a Milwaukee coach. They arrived in Rock Valley, stayed overnight in the hotel and next morning squeezed into a rented two-seated buggy drawn by one horse. (The “road” was a track too narrow for a team!)

The Rock River was up and they had to cross on a pontoon bridge, the rushing water often covering the bridge. Halfway across, the driver remarked that the last buggy he took across missed a section and over-turned. Grandma screamed but couldn’t order him to turn around.

Still, they were in Iowa, crossing beautiful prairies in bright sunshine. There were few trees and almost no buildings.

Midafternoon, they arrived at the James Skewis farm.

James was seldom at home in Iowa--he had seldom been at home in Wisconsin, either--with mines in Mexico and business ventures from Liverpool to New Orleans. But his wife (Margaret Rebling from Cornwall) was a marvel and she and the boys man aged the farm.

The youngest child, Jennie, was my mother’s age and her closest friend for life.

As the Ladds arrived, from the Skewis house (the biggest in the county) came parents, six sons, two daughters--to give the Ladds a real welcome. They stayed the night and next morning went on a mile to their own home.

The Ladds' first Iowa home was a sorry place with the barns straw-roofed and a four room house in awful shape. The grown-ups plastered and repaired floors. (I don't know how long Uncle John stayed to help or whether he had planted some crops and garden while waiting.)

My mother at seven years got on horseback and kept the cattle on the place as they grazed. Aunt Allie was perched on a chair to do endless dishes in a pan on the back of the stove. Uncle Will rocked the cradle and was go-for. Uncle Clarence had continuous asthma.

There had been no room for bedsteads for the children in the box car, so their straw mattresses were put on the floor--until Grandma awoke to see a rat running over their beds. Next day Grandpa built bed frames and borrowed cats from the neighbors.

The Ladds lived on that place three years, among mostly Scandinavian neighbors who had their own church and social life, of necessity in Norwegian, for there was no chance for the adults to learn much English.

In the fall Clarence, Carrie, and Will began school, walking a mile and a quarter to be with 18 pupils under a teacher with a thick accent and cruel discipline. The term was for five months only and Uncle Clarence missed most of it, but all three “passed” and made life-long friends of the Tillotsons and Andersons who were also pupils.


Prairie fire


Before next fall’s term opened, fire, the horror of the prairie, almost destroyed the Ladds.

Grandpa and Uncle Clarence had gone to town. Mother, Aunt Allie, and Uncle Will were herding cattle. They were suddenly aware of a huge black cloud and red skyline. Next came the loud, crackling roar.

They tried to hurry the reluctant cattle home and Grandma met them, carrying the baby. It must be a prairie fire, she said, and told Will to run for matches. He was too frightened to move, so my mother ran, came back with matches, and then none of them could remember how they were to set a backfire.

While they puzzled, neighbors came with supplies to build fires and plows. They cut furrows and got backfires going. The neighborhood was saved.

As school began, Grandpa’s brother Will sent “riches” from his Wisconsin farm-- three barrels of apples. The only fruit they had for over a year was the wild plums which always grow along Iowa streams. (Plums remained my mother’s favorites for 80 years, but they took lots of sugar!)

Those apples were the envy of the small school, where there was a new and better teacher. The year went well, generally, except that Jennie was seriously ill. The doctor made several 20-mile trips to see her, and she lived.

As the third Iowa year began, a neighbor from Shullsburg immigrated to begin a “town” by having a store in her house 2-1/2 miles from the Ladds. She was a widow named Skewis with three children. I don’t even know her first name--later I knew her in Inwood as Mrs. Lidell and her daughter Mae as Mrs. Foote.

Mrs. Lidell did the most beautiful handwork I ever saw, mostly crocheting. She made her living with it when I knew her and each year Aunt Allie helped her press and mount beautiful linens and decorative house things for the Lyon County Fair where she captured many small cash prizes and sold lots of things.

I have many “doilies” and similar things she made. I think one of Aunt Allie’s quiet charities was to buy these to give to us or use herself. I remember her daughter had the “Skewis” look as I thought of it. It was the look of Great Uncle Ben, Uncle Will, Hal, Uncle Earl, and Edward. Aunt Allie, Uncle Ben and Clarence looked like Ladds. In fact I can often not tell pictures of Grandpa and Uncle Ben apart.

The third Iowa year brought Bennett to the family. He became Jennie’s devoted companion.

A new farm


In 1885, the Ladds bought a farm just over the line in Sioux County, 120 acres at $15 an acre. The house was a converted granary, with rough partitions covered with “building paper,” but with lots of room.

The buildings were, however, only 200 feet from the railroad track and there were no fences. Imagine children and animals to guard from trains. Suddenly they realized how close they had felt to those first neighbors--how much fun they had at occasional parties on Saturdays. On those special occasions the children would gather in the early afternoon for “party games” to the music of old Mr. Will’s fiddle. At “chore time” they would scurry home, and after jobs and a quick supper the whole family would return.


School days


On this new place, it was three miles to school. That winter they did not go at all--a big help with the cattle, I’m sure, but they longed for education.

By spring, my mother was allowed to go to a 2-1/2 month term, walking six miles a day; she was 12 years old. The teacher was mother’s idol, ending the school year with a program in which everybody sang (even in “parts”) and spoke “pieces.”

Such a good teacher was not lost to the community, even if she had come out from Illinois for only a term; Bert Anderson, whose sister Emma was mother’s good friend, married her.

The next winter, the Ladds with six children and neighbors with three got permission to have school at Ladd’s.

They borrowed desks and a table from an empty school and boarded the teacher. School was in the living room for five months. Next year the neighbors held school.

I guess the county chose and paid the teachers. I remember Grandma Ladd telling how shiftless one of them was. Her lingerie was in shreds and she wouldn’t let Grandma teach her to mend it.

Then for another term the Ladds were hosts and the next year they went to a regular school. It was the fall of the terrible ‘88 blizzard. For some reason the Ladd children stayed home that day but a neighbor’s child froze to death walking home. Grandpa was almost lost in that storm, too.

Medicine for a sick neighbor had been brought to Ladd’s house by railroad section hands on a hand-car. (Don’t be amused-- “section hands” often did things like that. Once they took my father on the car to deliver a high school graduation address in a town seven miles away when roads were flooded but the tracks open!) They left the medicine with Grandpa to take two more miles to the neighbor. He did, on horseback, of course.


Lost in the storm


He knew the storm was bad but the Ladd house was protected by a hill, and it was much worse as he went on. Finally, he let the horse choose where to go and he bumped into a shed. Grandpa recognized the shed as belonging to the farm he wanted to find. He put the horse in the shed and followed the ever-present wire from the shed to the kitchen door.

Next morning they had to shovel the shed out from a drift that had covered it and Grandpa rode home, taking four hours to go two miles. In my joy that Grandpa lived, I never learned if the medicine cured the neighbor!

My mother’s rural schooling closed next term with a wonderful teacher named Renshaw, of a family that became fast friends of the Ladds. As a teacher, my mother always tried to be like Mattie Renshaw.

Mother then went to Rock Valley to work for her board and room and go to high school. She loved it, but when she was 15 (maybe 16 that fall) she was needed at home to help with the new baby, Earl, whom she loved beyond all others, and because they all needed the money she could bring in by living at home and teaching the home school.

Of course Jennie and Bennie were pupils, but they were cooperative (or else sure of their father’s retribution if they made trouble). She found teaching her forte’--she never really quit teaching all her life and though she sorrowed that she did not graduate, the years in Rock Valley bore fruit when she went to Parker, South Dakota, to visit her closest friend in high school, newly-married Blanche Falgatter Morgan. There she met my father.

Clarence was just too ill to try school anymore. Will and Allie drove five miles each way to Inwood High School. Eventually Will began to farm, but Allie was valedictorian of her class in I.H.S. Edward has lovely pictures of her as a graduate.

They were all proud that a Ladd had graduated. Later Jennie and Earl did, too. Will and Ben always had jobs and went to Barber College under the influence of Kansas cousin Bert Ladd, now in Inwood, the member of family of next-door neighbors, the Larsons.

There were soon weddings in the family. Will married Olive Albertson in 1900. The family was ecstatic over the birth next year of Harold Malcolm.




Uncle Will was in business in Inwood for awhile, and was in Primghar when Anita was born. I remember hearing about that because Harold visited my newly-married parents in Parker for a few weeks then and when I grew up people were still telling me what a perfect child my cousin was.

Later the Will Ladds lived in South Dakota, Montana and Oregon where Hal and Anita went to OU and OSU. They married fellow students, Nan La Roche and John Johnston. Anita has long lived in Bakersfield, California, where the Johnstons are big scale ranchers; and Hal lived in California and Massachusetts as an accountant with the Federal Reserve System. Anita has three children and Hal had a son. Aunt Olive died in 1950, Uncle Will in 1958, Harold in 1973.




Clarence was well enough to marry Carrie Bullock (from another English family but very different from the Skewis connections). They both worked hard in a tiny restaurant, specializing in ice cream. Aunt Carrie made, by hand, the new-fashioned things called “cones”. They had no children. Aunt Carrie died in 1922. In 1924, Uncle Clarence married Ora Stapleton and became very outgoing and social in his last years. They had a still-born child in 1926 and Uncle Clarence died in 1930.

After his death several Inwood young men told his family how this quiet, reserved man had helped them financially to go to school. His life-long physical battle must have covered his own sorrow over little schooling.




Jennie graduated from high school and taught one term. My mother always said Aunt Jennie began each teaching day by saying she’d rather be married! And she did marry Raphael Statia Towne, one of Inwood’s eligibles in June 1901. Lois Roy was born in 1902 and Jennie Eda two years later. Uncle Raph decided to go to Seminary and the girls became our bragged about “eastern cousins” the two years they were in New York.

They were in Iowa the last summer of Grandpa’s life and I will never forget the game of “florist shop” they created for us. We didn’t have such things in a South Dakota village in early l900s. Then they went west to Whitworth College in Washington and a home mission church in Oregon. They ended formal church service at Sheldon Jackson School in Alaska. Aunt Jennie was buried there in 1933.

Uncle Raph continued to lead an independent congregation (and farm--which he could apparently do in any climate) in Oregon until his death in 1962.

Lois married Vencil Cerveny and after his death Glenn DeJanvier. She has no children. She is an accomplished homemaker and a church accompanist without equal.

Eda married George Freeman and is the mother of George and Barbara. She has been homemaker and business woman. In 1978 she married Orville Dingler. Both girls are dedicated churchwomen.


George and Mary Ellen


We left the George Ladds as the boys left home. Soon Grandpa left the farm, buying a house, livery stable, and related properties in Inwood. My mother and Aunt Allie continued to teach, often driving from home to school in order to help with home work and to save money.

Finally they both realized the dream of college, Mother at Cornell in Mount Vernon, Iowa, as Jennie Skewis’s roommate, but again she couldn’t graduate. She taught in town finally, at George, Iowa.

Aunt Allie got in two years at Iowa State Teachers College in Cedar Falls and ended by teaching at Estherville.

Great Grandmother Ladd Clayton came to live with George’s family; she was pretty much an invalid from a broken hip and, the last year, a paralyzing stroke. She must have been a charming old lady. My father, still a fiance’ because the family needed mother’s salary, adored her.


Playing politics


They were Presbyterians in Inwood and lived a really happy social life. Grandpa played politics and with a Democratic landslide won the election as Lyon County treasurer in 1910. Aunt Allie resigned her teaching to become his deputy and they moved to Rock Rapids.

They were soon established in a big house on a half-block lot, with lots of trees for swings, space for croquet games, lovely lawn and gardens--a perfect place for grandchildren.


George’s death


Grandpa had a fatal heart attack one morning on his way to work. He just carefully sat down on the grass, leaned himself and his thermos bottle against a tree, and died. That was the way he always was, careful not to disturb others and always going about his business.

Uncle John was appointed to fill the term and Aunt Allie did the work. He had a gay time in town, found an attractive young milliner to many. His daughter, Nina, who had kept house for him in the block south of the Ladd house, immediately married a man perhaps 15 years older than she was. Vi (Viola Neverman) who married Uncle John, was a faithful wife to an irascible old man.

Aunt Allie stayed on as deputy for another county treasurer until Earl came home from proving up on a claim in Colorado and went into the automobile business. Aunt Allie and a trusty old Oliver typewriter (absolutely the funniest looking machine ever) took over the office.



Soon Uncle Earl was bringing home the loveliest girl I had ever dreamed of. I didn’t even mind watching my manners when she was there. In 1917, he married Wilhelmina Serck. From then on, my summer vacations transferred to their house and I learned from, and thought I was “helping,” Aunt Minnie and the new Ladds -- Louise and Edward. Before Alice arrived, I was so old I had to go to school or find a job summers.

Louise grew up to marry John Benz and live in Melvin, Iowa, as a banker’s wife. Their oldest son, John, and youngest, Gary, are in the family bank. In the middle is James, a lawyer married to a medical doctor, in Cedar Rapids. Louise died of complications from diabetes in 1987.

Edward married Eleanor Dykhouse also from Rock Rapids, and found life on the Ladd farm near Rock Rapids after seeing half the world in service. They have a son, Robert, a geologist, and a daughter, Barbara, a journalist.

Alice, born in 1926, married Myron Shannon. He was with REA in Rock Rapids and is in similar work in Texas. Alice is a secretary. They have three children, Sheila, who died of complications from diabetes in 1986; Douglas who is in the U.S. Military, and Janet who lives in Washington.

Uncle Earl died on a cattle-buying trip to South Dakota in 1955. Most like his father of all the family, he was always quietly about his business. He also had a gift for kindness to all family members and a quiet sense of humor.

I remember clearly the night he was baptized--maybe the summer before he was married--in the big house. Mr. Evans, the Congregational minister and, I think, the two Mrs. Evanses, Aunt Allie, Grandma and I were there. Mr. Evans jokingly said that this was the time he could add a name and Uncle Earl said, “Could I leave one out?”


A chic name


His name was given by his elder sisters who felt it was very chic to have his initials spell his name: Earl Absolom Robert Ladd. Grandma had wanted to call him Azel but her mother-in-law vetoed that--she couldn’t bear all those Cornish relatives calling him Hazel.

Aunt Minnie died in 1980, after her last few years in quiet peace in a retirement home.


Aunt Allie


Aunt Allie always had an active hand in the rearing of all the Ladd family children, and as the others moved away she concentrated on Earl’s family (and on me because I always managed to be around).

She sewed and knitted for us all, supplemented our educations (intellectual and moral), taught us our manners, and loved us--and our children. She lived to be the grand old lady of Lyon County. When she was 98, Eleanor and Edward gave a grand party for her, to which most of us managed to come. It was wonderful. When she died the next year, we had all said our thanks to her as surrogate parent and she had laughed with us all at our memories. And she had laughed at us for thinking we were giving her a party; she paid for the big dinner with "some money she just happened to put away."


Grandma’s cooking


I must return to Grandma’s last years, and they were many; she was a widow for 26 years. She and Aunt Allie stayed on in the big house for a time. She was a good cook, of the plain variety. Her American fried potatoes, almost black with pepper and with a golden crust, were wonderful and many times she served them for both breakfast and supper. And I must mention her Cornish specialties: heavy cake (really light scones with currants, not raisins, baked in a square cake pan), “pasty” (light pastry enclosing tender meat pieces, sliced potatoes, onions-- maybe even turnips or even carrots, though the family frowned at these), hot at noon but wonderful cold, too.

I often heard Uncle Ben encourage people to finish vegetables by saying, “Eat it now or Ma’ll put in pie.’

And her biscuits were small, beautifully browned ‘‘raised bread,” seasoned with caraway (called “seedy-biscuits) or saffron and currants.



She sewed and embroidered well, and she could tat. I’ve never seen such yards of lovely lace edging as she turned out--always there was a shuttle in her hands if she were just sitting. She said it was the only handwork you could do holding a baby on your lap, and she had held a baby whenever she sat down since she was seven.


Tall and stately


Grandma was beautiful, tall, stately. She dressed carefully and well, and Grandpa delighted in giving her jewelry. I wear her silver watch on a chain; she wore it pinned over her heart.

I was always so proud of her, even when I was in graduate school I brought my friends to meet her. She loved to write letters and kept a sort of diary. In writing her Cornish youth showed--as it often did in her speech--with H’s in the wrong place. I tried to keep her from telling people the name of my college (Huron).

Uncle Ben looked like Grandpa and Aunt Allie looked like his mother. Lloyd has Grandpa’s face, too. Pictures of Grandma, her mother, my mother, my daughter Beth and her daughter and Eda would look so much alike that only the clothes would identify them. Uncle Earl, Harold, Edward and Robert all have that Skewis look. Uncle Will looked like Grandmother’s brother Ben.

I presume you all have your feelings for the family looks and traits--maybe not like mine--but the stock from which we came was strong and has, as my husband liked to remark, consistently produced children who were smart enough to learn to read and knew how to work.

Mary Ellen’s death


Aunt Allie and Grandma moved into a succession of apartments, and when Uncle Earl and Aunt Minnie moved to the farm, they went into his house downtown. There Grandma died at 89 years of age.

Her health was always a concern to Grandpa. In fact, they moved to Iowa partly because the climate might be good for her. (Obviously it wasn’t for her eldest child.) Probably seven children and the housework under primitive conditions kept her chronically tired and wornout.

She developed, however, when I was still in grade school, a sore spot near one of her eyes which did not yield to treatment. Knowing what we do now of the toxic effect of smoke, I wonder if it weren’t the result of the irritation of cooking and baking with kerosene Stoves as she did even before they left the big house.

She had x-ray, then radiation treatments and finally surgical removal of the eye. But eventually she died of general cancer, “blood cancer” the Rock Rapids doctor called it. She was not uncomfortable, however, just very weak and tired the last couple of years.



I’ve traced briefly all but two of George’s and Mary Ellen’s children.

Uncle Ben was the person who always made the children happy. I remember many times he taught me by jokes--such as the rule when I was a giddy high school girl in the ‘20s and sure I could drive a car anywhere or anytime, that nobody ever ran out of gas from the top half of the tank.

In Inwood days he always let me ride any horse or in any carriage or wagon the Ladds had-- except one day when he was lifting me up on the driver’s seat of the hearse. My mother stopped that. He was married briefly when I knew him in Inwood to a girl named Anna Anderson. I know no more than her name.

Uncle Ben went to Colorado to prove up on a claim and married Ida Watkins who was there for the same reason. They had two sons, Lloyd, who looked just like his father, and Robert Lowell who was called Bob by the family and Lowell by us who had so many Roberts to differentiate.

Uncle Ben came back to Iowa before the l930s, ran a restaurant in Rock Rapids, bought a farm near the area where the Ladds used to live, near Klondike, and married Marie Raveling. He died in 1964, thoroughly enjoying the beautiful farm.

Lloyd and his wife Daisy farmed in Iowa for a time and then went back to Colorado where he had a big tourist restaurant and motel at Fort Collins. I have seen Daisy only once when she and Lloyd, their daughter Donna, and her husband Pat Siefken, came to Aunt Allie’s 98th birthday party. Pat is a professional baker and the cake he made was a marvel. The frosting featured a copy of the picture of Aunt Allie in the 1890s wedding dress of Grandma’s closest Iowa friend, Mrs. Rogers, which Aunt Allie wore for years at celebrations.

Lloyd and Daisy had three sons older than Donna--Verle, Gary and James. Verle was killed by lightening when he was 12. Both Gary and James married and have children.

Lloyd suffered from diabetes and had a foot amputated just a year or two before his death in 1985.

I never saw Birdie but feel that I know her from letters and family talk. She is Lowell’s widow and lives on the ranch near Merino that grew from the claims. She, too, is in bad health, fighting a baffle with cancer, but after Lowell’s death in 1977 a grandson has lived with her.

Birdie and Lowell had six children: Rex, Keith, Betty, Donald, Beverly, and Dorothy. They are all married and have children and even grandchildren.

Don, Keith and Rex are farmers who own race horses, too, and spend the race season in Nebraska (but have raced as far east as Chicago and Detroit). Wouldn’t Grandpa Ladd have loved that! The grandsons mostly farm, one son-in-law is a jockey now living in Canada. Several children are now in college.



My mother, Carrie Louise, the eldest daughter, was married in the old house in Inwood to Claude Jones, a young Parker, South Dakota, lawyer. They had a very good life and many interests and activities in the community where my father had grown up and his parents lived.

They had three children and my father died when I, the eldest, was 18. Mother, with a bit of help from us all, saw the boys in good marriages and jobs and then collapsed. She lived with Dan and me for 25 years and was grandmother extraordinaire to our daughters, Jane, Mary and Beth.

Justin married a college sweetheart, Ethelyn Bergman, and was always in the lumber business, first in Oregon and then in Flandreau, South Dakota. They had three daughters.

Jacquelyn, who is married to Dr. Richard Gunnarson, an ear-nose and throat physician in Sioux Falls, is the mother of three children.

Cynthia is Mrs. Terry Johnson with two daughters and a son. They are farmers near Flandreau. Jeanne and Tom Manzer have a daughter and son. Tom is in development at South Dakota State College and Jeanne is a journalist now working in public relations for a manufacturer.

Justin's and Ethelyn's son, Claude is a Presbyterian minister in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Claude Robert, Carrie's youngest, died at 46, an attorney in Miami, after long and difficult naval service in World War II. His wife, Iola, came to Aunt Allie's 98th celebration, proof of how the family draws all into its circle.

Claude's son, Timothy Ladd, is a medical student married to a doctor. His daughter, Claudia, is a nurse, married to a nurse, David C. Lawton, parents of Adam, Rebecca and Andrew, and living in Georgia.


In Retrospect


My memories of the Inwood house are surprisingly clear. It was a place, for me, of safety, close family, love and concern and much activity. My mother’s notes on her early life repeat twice that in the James Skewis home (where they spent their first night in Iowa) she never, in all her close ties with that family, “heard a cross word spoken.” I think I never heard either Ladd grandparents speak in anger or irritation, though Grandma was remembered as quick to punish her own small children.

The house had a square parlor with organ and a sofa which had a jointed foot so it could serve as well as a bed. There seemed to be many wooden arm chairs or rockers, and lots of “sofa pillows”--all embroidered and edged with crochet.

Opening off it was the grandparent’s bedroom with a lively high wooden bed, the foot board wide enough to serve as a “horse” for small children. The chests had more drawers and doors than any I ever saw, such lovely cubby- holes to explore. If I was careless in handling beads, pins, stacks of handkerchiefs, Grandma set me a punishment of straightening the spool drawer of her sewing machine.

That room had been Grandma Clayton’s for the last decade of her life, and my mother spoke often of Grandpa’s tender care of her the last year when she was bedfast.

The front porch opened into both the parlor and the dining room which always seemed to have room to seat another person or two. In it also was a folding bed in which my mother, Aunt Allie, and Aunt Jennie slept as long as they were at home. It had a nice beveled glass mirror on the side exposed all day, but I have no idea where three girls kept their clothes, lingerie, and the many ribbons and laces they wore.

The kitchen I remember as huge and full of activity. I will never forget the pinches of sugar and butter I snitched from the bowl in Grandmother’s lap as she made cakes.

Off the kitchen opened the pantry and two bedrooms, one for the boys who were at home and another which had been for the Grandparent’s and then the visiting Joneses. The back porch opened onto a wide, wooden walkway to shed and barn. There summer laundry was done and in the yard everyone sat to rest in good weather.

Grandfather Ladd had wonderful horses, beautifully groomed. I remember a matched pair, black, small enough to be called ponies. They drew a small buggy, really what English stories called a "governess cart."

No modern car owner lavished more polishing on his vehicle than the Ladd men did on their buggies or wagons. Ladd men later learned to like cars. I remember Uncle Will’s family’s arrival in Parker from Presho in a Hupmobile. Such elegance was far above the Joneses who needed Fords to negotiate the back roads of South Dakota. Uncle Clarence had a Maxwell, and I remember a Reo and a Franklin. Whose were they?

Uncle Earl, young blade home from Colorado, bought a motor cycle--a Harley Davidson. Aunt Allie made a divided skirt and a tight-fitting feminine cap so she could ride behind him. I needed no costume when I got a chance to hop on!

We were at the Ladds a lot, always spending Christmas with my mothers family and New Years with my fathers one year and switching the next. This continued until I was into high school and my Jones grandmother ceased to live in Parker. We also were all in Inwood or Rock Rapids at least once each summer. I remember several years when we celebrated the mutual birthday of my father and grandfather Ladd (July 23) together. Once they made us a hammock rack on that day.

It wasn’t hard to get to Inwood on the Milwaukee railroad, harder to get to Rock Rapids by waiting in Sheldon and transferring to the Illinois Central. The day Grandfather Ladd died my father hired a Parker garage owner to drive us to Rock Rapids, sixty miles! Next year we bought our brass- band Model T and then the summer trip was by car. As soon as we crossed into Iowa mother began pointing out farms and schools which were part of the Ladd heritage.

In Rock Rapids the Lyon County fairs were a source of real family fun from the time I was six until I was in high school. I first remember “going down to the barns” early in the morning (when the admission gates were not open!) with Grandpa and my father who were horse-race mad. Afternoons all of us watched the races from the grandstand. Before and after we went from one exhibit room to another, carefully noting the winners and seeing many county friends of the Ladds. We strolled the midway. I never remember spending any money on chance games; we didn’t have much money. I will never forget the tune played in the tent where "nice people didn't go in or even stand looking at." When I got to college the boys sang it; I've never known the words.

We carried one or two picnic meals to the grounds so we could enjoy a full day and evening on one entrance fee. Once I remember part of the grandstand entertainment was stunt airplane flying by Ruth Law. We were too innocent of planes to know that when she flew close enough for us to see her face, the plane was too close!

There was always a circus, a pretty good one, each summer in Rock Rapids and it was a good stop for tent theatre.

We bought season ticket books for these--a week of plays. Some Aunt Allie did not think “suitable.” I remember once Grandma and I sneaked out to “Twin Beds” in the afternoon while the monitor of our morals was at work. You couldn’t shock me; I had been to every traveling play ever to come to Parker. My father was city attorney and always had tickets given by advance agents when they got licenses. I saw everything, but I can’t remember parts of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”; I cried so hard at the whipping scenes and Eliza’s leaping across the ice that I had to go out or hide my face for awhile.

I live with so many Skewis-Ladd memories and things they had. I eat breakfast from one of three plates remaining from Jane T. Osborne’s trousseu dishes, using a spoon that has on it the initials of the bride of James Skewis’s son, George, whose bridesmaid my mother was. I treasure vases and plates hand-painted by Aunt Allie, many of which I saw her work on. I use pillow slips decorated by Grandma’s tatting. I get up promptly in the morning, hearing Aunt Allie say, “Stay in bed only if you are sick,” and “you probably won’t feel sick when you’re dressed.” Best of all, I love to remember Grandma who had a Cornish adage for every occasion. One of her favorites was, “An apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

I feel I am close to the Skewis-Ladd tree.
And I like it.

Elinor Jones Gage


Source: Rock Rapids Library

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