Written by Miss Jennie Skewis

Dear Bro George:

I have missed writing to people so very much but I have had a great deal of time to think when not listening to the radio or the talking books.  Most of my thoughts were of the past as is usually the case, and it would be nice to talk these things over with you as you surely remember them too.  Mern was so young when we lived on the farm but he will remember some of it and especially the Inwood days quite well.

I do not remember much about Shullsburg except the Sunday morning when I took a nice walk in my nightgown when I was perhaps three years old.  There were lots of people going past on the way to the catholic church and I was clinging to a white picket fence when you appeared and took me home.  This was the first time you rescued me from a predicament but not the last.

When we moved to Lyon County our house was not built so we lived for a year on the Warren place.  It was while we were there that you and Charles took the cattle up to our farm and herded them there.  You two lived in the dugout by yourselves and I think you must have been about 10 & 12.

Do you remember what a pretty farm we had with rolling land and open vistas down the valley to the SE (what direction) between Uncle Wm. Oates farm and the big rock and off to the east and south east for miles.

There was a fence which enclosed some yard, a sweet briar rose, the lilac bush, and several rows of current bushes as well as fathers vegetable garden.

East of the garden there were some plum trees and blackberry bushes, and at the bottom of the garden a row of willow trees usually full of white worms and beyond that a row of young catalpa trees.  Straight south a quarter of a mile to the main east-west road there was a row of cottonwood trees alternating with walnut trees.  On the west there was a fair size grove of boxelder trees which I liked very much because there were no worms on them.

At the back of the house were the barns.  One winter father had a shelter made for his cattle from branches or poles which they probably brought from the Rock River to cover some beams which were supported by posts.  After threshing, the straw was dumped on top and at the N.E. & W. sides making it a nice warm shelter.

I remember looking for eggs one day in the straw around the shelter when I saw a wren with his tail straight up.  It was a revelation to me to see a wren and I knew at once what it was.  The nest was nearby I suppose but I never found it.

Another day you boys come home and said you had seen the crows dancing across the stream and not far from the big rock.  I thought I was at the end of the world when I got that far and it was so different.  There were some tiny  little flowers growing there which we never found anywhere else.

Dear George,

For breakfast oatmeal, whole unrolled kernels cooked a long time, very good, on it we had soft sugar that was not granulated.  It always went hard and lumpy for awhile. We had a keg of black strap molasses which didn't appeal to us so much.  We always had the regular molasses and we always had plenty of milk and cream and churned our own butter.  The coffee we bought in whole berries  It had to be toasted in the oven and then ground in the coffee grinder and we always made it with egg.

We had toast made on top of the stove or over the coils when the lid was off.  We burned cobs part of the time and sometimes wood from the Rock River but we had coal too.

Father used to take some bags of wheat to the mill at Rock Valley (14 miles) or Fairview (7-8 miles) and brought back the flour for bread and the bran (for the cattle) and the "shorts" and make gems.  We baked all our own bread and biscuits of course.  We always had current biscuits and heavy cake. 

Raisins had to be seeded but currents were fairly easy to get.  We had prunes for sauce and pie, made fruit cake at Christmas time and pudding cooked in a cloth "Christmas pudding."

Buckwheat pancakes had to be kept going.  It was always "set" at night and left, well covered with a blanket.  The house got pretty cold at night.  Sometimes added saleratus to speed things up and make sure it didn't sour, (no soda though baking powder).  The pancake griddle fitted into the stove size of two lids.

Sometimes we had fried potatoes but not too often.  Some of the neighbors always had fried potatoes and side meat for breakfast.

We were more apt to have fried potatoes and cold meat and fresh heavy cake and some kind of sauce from dried apples or fresh berries in the summer, red currents and gooseberries. 

For dinner, beef and pork, butchered in the winter cooked and put it down in lard--were salted down, made sausage, cheese, kept frozen till winter, chickens, prairie chickens, rabbits to work toward end of winter and eggs.

In winter, potatoes, turnips, onions, dried peas and beans, corn cooked, cut off and salted down in crock, freshen to use, corn meal, jonny cake, corn meal mush, rice, when we could get to Beloit, bypassed by railroad and always everything --away was to be the site for Augustana College.

In summer Grandpa had a good garden; peas (an acre of them), fed bine and all to the pigs, cucumbers, carrots, cabbages, squash, beets, pumpkins, turnips, horseradish, no celery till I went back to Shullsburg to school, a few melons, tomatoes and rhubarb.

No kind of salads at all, used to make fun of Lottie Klives salads, no such thing as salad dressing.  Coleslaw was serves and lettuce with cream and sugar.

Klives made pie out of sorrels but we didn't like it, prune pie and dried apple pie, custard pie, lemon pie, when we could get lemon,  sogo pudding, meat potatoes and gravy, no escalloped potatoes or potato salad. 


You probably remember the time we rode the bicycles down to Fairview to the 4th of July celebration.  My bicycle was a new one and yours was borrowed from some one, at least it wasn't new.  I think it was about 7 miles and we both wanted to try it.  It was a beautiful day and we were surprised that we went as fast as we did.  I cannot remember a thing about the celebration.  I do not know whether we ever found the place but Fairview was pretty country and we enjoyed the ride.  We started home after a couple hours, and it was completely dark when we got there.  I think that was the longest ride we ever had on bicycles.

Do you remember the time we hitched "Francis Willard" to the buggy with another horse?  I think F.W. had been ridden but never hitched with another to a wagon (wasn't she a bronco?)

Anyway when we got to the top of the first hill and Francis Willard stopped. It was just a quarter of a mile from home.  We couldn't get her started but when we turned around and headed home they trotted right off.  I think we were going to church in Inwood and so we hurried up and walked the mile and left the horses home.

I don't know why we had those two horses or who the other one was. Can you remember? Or why we thought we had to ride one mile?

In the winter

The boys brought the bridles in to the living room to warm up the bits.  They made --steamed and bent the wood in the living room.  Once Nort. Anderson came over and they spent all day making a backgammon board.  They played checkers at night.  We had "Harpers Young People" to read and everyone sat around the table reading or playing games or sewing or knitting.

Once the big table lamp with the shade was knocked over while we were all around the table and mother reached out and set it up before anything happened.

Will Prichard stayed with us.  He was reading Thackeys "Vanity Fair" out loud to Anita and me.  We sat by the stove where it was warm.

Anita had a nice little case organ and Will played chords on it for us to sing.  In the winter the organ was in the bedroom as the stove took up room.

One summer Ellen Oates came out and visited and Phene Oates came and taught school.  Then Uncle William come to get the farm ready so he could move his family out and he stayed at our house.

The room was Wains coated up to the height of top of  chairs and the ceiling was white washed. The wall above was papered between the doors and windows.

We lived in the living room.  There was almost always some one extra around.

There was Reinhart who was there one winter.  There was heavy snow and we were getting low on food and he showed Anita how to make a milk gravy with flour to put on bread.

Another winter there was an Irish gentleman apparently from a good family, had been educated in Dublin.  He had books in French and the Iola was one of his books.

His name was Robert Grubb and he stammered a little.  He wanted to stay a while on a farm and learn about farming.

Mrs. Friebel from Sioux Falls was a special friend of mothers (from Shullsburg).  She was married to a big German, (she was Matt Thompson's sister).

Mrs. Friebel and her daughter came and spent quite a while.  We had just sat down to a meal and someone tipped over a scalding pot of tea.  It went on me and on Mern.  Mern was burned on his arm, and she took care of him and dressed the burn.

Mrs. F. had pretty curly brown hair, curls pinned up on top of her head and some hanging down in her neck.  Mr. F. liked her curls so she always wore them.

There was no place like a hotel any where around and so people stayed at our house when they were in our neighborhood and we always managed to find a place for them.

I think it was while we were on the Warren farm that the grasshoppers came.  They were in everything even the pans of milk in the cellar.

Once the cattle wandered away in a storm.  I don't know who went after them but probably you boys.

Our neighbor Mr. Beck lived about a half a mile away and had a family of big tall rougey men, some girls too.  Mr. Beck had turkeys and so did we, which were allowed to forage for themselves all summer.  In the fall when we went out to round up our dark colored turkeys there were some of them over with the Becks, light colored turks.  He said he wanted his "compliment" and we thought he should of course, but after that we all wanted our ""compliment" of every thing, whatever it was pancakes or biscuits or anything.  I don't remember what happened to the turkeys, but it must have been settled amicably.

In looking back it seems to me you boys were rather hard on me.  I don't blame you much as I know I followed you every where and must have been a nuisance.  You used to do things to tease me.

Once you got me to taste a raw pumpkin, said it was delicious and I thought it was awful.  To this day I don't care much for pumpkin pie.

There was a stage road past the Warren place consisting of two deep ruts maybe a foot wide each and a high place between.  I can remember seeing the mail stage go past once on its way to Beloit where we went to trade.  To the east of the house, the road went over a little hill or knoll, and one day when all the boys disappeared I had a feeling they had gone in that direction.  They knew I would follow and where I came out--.

Dear George & Martha,

In "Remembering" I wonder why I have not said anything about the weddings?  In fact I attended only George & Martha's and Ed & Franc's.  Anita was the first to marry and she and Will went down to Canton, were married and came back on the afternoon train.  Will and Mattie were married in Rock Valley at the McLean home.  Harry and Annie, in Annie's parental home on a farm east of our place several miles.  Charles & Myrtle in Ruthven and Mern & Maude in Minneapolis.

George & Martha's wedding was at the Rogers' home in Inwood.  I don't remember the ceremony as well as the table decorations which were very pretty and nicely arranged with the help of Jennie Calvin & Carrie Ladd.  There were white satin ribbons from the hanging lamp to the corners of the table and I remember how nice George & Martha looked.

We had a little reception for them later at our house attended my most of the young people of Inwood.  I remember that Mern helped to plan it and we had some kind of clothes pin dolls dressed up with names attached for the finding of partners for refreshments.  I believe the boys rolled a ball to knock over a doll to get the name of their supper partner.  Some how we got things mixed up and intentually separated Geo & Martha and they both ended up with different partners that evening.

It was October I think and rather chilly and at that time the great Joseph Jefferson was playing Rip Van Winkle in Sioux City.  Mern thought it would be a grand idea if we all went to Sioux City to see the play by way of a little treat since they didn't have a wedding journey.  So we went, Mern and I and Martha and George and saw the play in the Opera House, enjoying his superb interpretation of Rip Van Winkle.

At the hotel there were only two rooms available so they had one and Martha and I the other.  It was too bad to separate them on their first trip together, but they have had a long time together since then.  We all went back to Inwood the next day and then George and Martha went on to Terril.

Ed and Franc were married in Gov. VanSants apartment in Minneapolis.  Louie Moralem was in this country visiting us and went with me.  We met a good many people, friends and relatives of the VanSants.  Franc carried a huge bouquet of red roses and looked pretty nifty and the wedding dinner  (or supper) was served at a great round table filling the room with a bank of poinsettas for the centerpiece making a beautiful table.  The dinner was very good, but when they began to serve the last course Grant VanSant said. "Someone sent us some fine mushrooms and this is a mushroom dish,".  However it turned out to be dessert and not mushrooms at all.

After the party, Louis Moralem went on home from --going back to the farm days.  I am sure I have missed some of the strange characters that use to come our way.  One of the strangest was Doc Waller, do you remember who he was? Was he a vet? He wore an old gray hat with the rim doubled up so it would stay on.  He seemed to come from no place, stayed a while and left to go no place that we knew of.

There was a Mr. Mead who came from the English colony at Larchwood now and then to look at our horses.  I think he bought Alexander and trained him to be a race horse.  Before he went back to --.

Then there was the time we got out the Christmas issue of the "Inwood Herald", we ordered a lot of pink paper and got a nice lot of advertising lined up, then we wrote something about each one of the advertisers.  There was Mr. Wenig's general store, Harry Bakers Shoe Store, Walter Brands'  (general store), (dry goods); Lewis brothers, drugstore?, Mr. Kurts meat market; Carl Dvigs' jewelry store; (He had the telephone exchange later,), Prichard Skears lumber Co., and the Farmers Bank, and probably others.

We worked like anything but it was more work than we thought it would be and it got pretty late.  We knew it had to be done and we would we would have to stay on the job till it was finished.  So we got Sanford --, Mr. Hardinger and his wife and you and I, and we worked all night.  It was more pages than we usually printed and it was a hand press too.  They were all printed and folded and in the post office by daylight.  I think Walter Brand was the only one who thought he didn't get much for his advertising as it came out so late, and we didn't blame him, but the rest of the town seemed to be satisfied.

I went home and went to bed and slept all that day and all that night and I think I missed some kind of a show that I was supposed to be in.  Was it the "Broom Brigade"?

Once when I was visiting Minnie Oates in Inwood sometime ago I thought it would be nice for us to walk down to the farm.  Minnie knew the lady that lived there and she phoned to see if it would be alright to come.  We enjoyed the walk and it didn't seem far at all.

When we got there, here was the big square house that Mr. Town built when he owned it.  Behind that was our farm home attached.  One big square room.  We thought it was big but maybe only 4 feet square.  On the north two bedrooms.  Anita and I had one and father and mother the other one.  Mr. Town had taken off those two north rooms when he built the big square house.

The square living room had seven doors, and two or three big windows.  One door to each bedroom, one to the out doors on south and one on the east.  One door to the pantry, one to the cellar and one to the upstairs.  The room had in it a cook stove, between the cellar door and the upstairs door on the west side.  The walnut cupboard we have now in our dining room was there a lounge like Min Oates which could be pull out and made into a bed (and it was done quite often), a long table for ten people.  Sometimes more kids had a chance to wait quite often.

In one corner a washstand.  There were enough chairs for everyone.  The couch was used on one side when there was company.  The floor was plain boards and it was a while before we got it painted.  I learned to scrub that floor pretty young.

Upstairs was where the boys slept.  There were always three beds and sometimes a bed on the floor.  There wasn't much room between beds except for that stand we now have upstairs.  There were some books on some shelves.  One was Bullwar Lytons "Last Days of Pompei", a big book one cover gone and part of the last days of Pompei missing.  Also in the book was "Rienza, the last of the Tribunes", I didn't read that part.  Some one left a book by M. Zola, a novel in French, a detective story, "Shadowed by Three".  The girl was Lenore and there was a mean woman in it.

In the lean to over the two bedrooms there was a low attic where we used to play and dress up.  Charles and Mern and I and any visitor we had mothers black silk dolmen trimmed in crepe that she had when her father died.  There were two of Anita's silk dresses.  One was brown with black lines and dots between.  It was trimmed with heavy wool lace, big sleeves and an overskirt with trimming around it.

The blue silk dress was also striped with black and blue.  There was also a tin hat box father had made to hold his silk hat.  Grandfathers cane was up there, lots of other things.  Maybe you can remember some more.  It was sort of a catch all.

The cellar was rocked up and was very good.  There was a long row of shelves for  crocks and pans of milk, and the canned preserves and maybe the meat that was put down in lard.

The shanty or summer kitchen was a short distance from the house, was used for storage in the winter and in the summer the stove was moved out there and cooking was done there.


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