TALES from the FRONT PORCH
Ringgold County's Oral Legend & Memories Project
JULIA BELLE BAIRD-SPENCER
LIFE HISTORY as related by Julia Belle (Baird-Spencer) at two difference times, that have been put together to
complete the story for this history. The last was near, or on her birthday in January 26, 1953. Additional comments,
contained in [brackets] provided by Delbert Spencer.
"My [paternal] grandfather John Baird lived at my Uncle Sam Baird's. I was 4 years when he died [June 5, 1871]. I just
barely remember him. Grandma Martha [Wilson-Moore] died young .
I also remember my [maternal] grandma Julia [DeWitt] Poore. I was 8 years when she died [Nov 27, 1812 -July 25, 1875],
but grandpa Alvan Poore died young [July 31, 1803-Jan 29, 1862].
ISABELLA (POOR) and ABSOLAM BAIRD
My mother and father [Absolam M. Baird, and
Isabella Poore] were married in 1858 and took a homestead of government land in N.W. corner of Clinton Township where
they built a one room frame house, first home built of this type, as every thing else was log cabins.
I was the fifth child born in that home. I came during an awful blizzard and snow storm and Dad got lost going 2 miles in
that storm for our old godmother [midwife?] who we remember was Earl Hoover's grandmother, but through it all I arrived
safely. A lean-to kitchen was built on, which after Alice and Samuel were born, a larger 6 room, 1 and 1/2 story house
was built. 4 rooms below and 2 rooms upstairs, which was the home for all their children. 2 boys died between Ida and me
[John Elmer 1863-1882 and Rufas Hartley 1865-1877]. The frame house still stands but has had many changes made in it.
About the first memories I have was the building of this home.
My early life at home was very simple. No fruit to eat until it was raised. My Grandfather Baird had the first orchard
in our community, so an apple from it was a treat for us on our way home from school. My life during that time at home
was like most all children into some mischief and usually got punished for it.
There was a small school house just over the hill north where I learned my ABC's and how to spell. A very bright spot in
my memory is my aunt giving us pennies for head marks. My sister Alice and I had 60 I think, so we bought a little china
doll with hair, and hair bands with the rest as we wore our hair bobbed. Mine was quite curly, and it caused some
heartaches when mother cut it off, but she had no time to make curls with 7 of her own, and a nephew of father's which
was raised in the home.
When I was 7 or 8 a change in school districts was made, and we had to go 1 3/4 miles through brush and weeds down an
old Indian trail part way. I always walked to school. Daddy had too much to do to take us. If we couldn't walk, it was
stay home. We climbed two hills to what we called the Jake Hill, before we got to the Indian trail, which went close to
Uncle Sam Baird's home, then walked the coldest 3/4 mile to the school. T'was quite a blow for us to go so far.
Schools were three summer months, and four winter months, and they all went just as they could. All grades were taught
in the same school. If we got our lessons, we passed, if not we stayed behind. There were no grade cards given. Some went
until 21 years old to finish.
I want to tell you about my prize I won for the best pen drawing of Iowa. My cousin Laura Baird and I was competing. I
received a small one blade pen knife about 3 inches long. But to my horror and shame, I broke it before I got home. Ha!
I had my slate so I was whacking the knife on the frame. One of my careless tricks. I think I was about 12 years old.
A great play and plans for girls was to build play houses at times in the school yard. There was wood cut in cord lengths,
so we could divide it into rooms and gather things to put in them. That's what we did at our homes. There was nothing but
wood to burn for fuel in those days.
The most humiliating punishment I ever got at school was sitting on the floor, my back to the pupils. T’was while still
at the school on the hill. In our school we had literary and debating and spelling schools and games such as we have
today, but no football or basket ball, but had baseball. Outside of school we had parties -- mostly games -- not much
When I was about 12 years old, the CB & I railroad was built running about 200 yards from our house and through 340 acres
of fields. That was a great thrill for us children as we hadn't seen a train. It came through Mt. Ayr, Delphos, and
Redding. It was quite an advantage to us when we wanted to come to Mr. Ayr or go to Delphos just get on the train. But my
trouble was started. The train at Delphos ran north. When it arrived at Mt. Ayr, it was going east and I didn't know it.
Therefore, I was turned in directions, from which I never got over, as east was always north to me as long as I have
lived here in Mt. Ayr.
At the time my folks settled, there was nothing closer than Bedford or St. Joe, Missouri to get food or grinding of corn,
or wheat for bread. Men had to go by team of oxen, or on horseback for food and goods for clothes, which were mostly
lincy [?] for women, and jeans for men's clothing. The first post office was at my uncle Sam Baird's home, later moved to
a store across the Grand River called Rooster Bend. I recall distinctly, times when my sister road the little Mexican
pony over for mail, and we all got a short ride when she returned, but we never rode astride as she had a side saddle
which women used in those days.
Later Redding began to develop, so the post office was moved to what they say now was old Redding. In my early days
there was quite often malaria or chills, we called them. One would have a chill, then fever, every other day. I seemed to
be the one most subject to those spells and took so much quinine for treatment. Another distinct memory was of my
grandfather John Baird at my Uncle Sam's [Samuel Moore Baird] house 1/2 mile south. John was afflicted with cancer on
one side of his face. I always loved to stop there with their girls Laura and Nina from school. I always loved their
mother, Aunt Lizzie [Mildred Elizabeth Parks] She used to weave cloth and carpets. She had a spinning wheel to spin
After my school days in the country was over, [age 17] I spent one year in Mt Ayr, and was smart enough to quit
[graduate?], so went to Redding with sister Ida and did some sewing for some time. About this time "1886 or 87" [she
was 19 or 20 years old], a church was built in the community known as the Palestine--W.J. B. Church. We all attended
that church; became members, were also baptized in a pond on the Ell Hoover farm.
T’was my happiest meeting with my fiancé. Not long after that he went to Shenandoah, Iowa, to school. I corresponded
with him until our marriage in 1890. We were married at my old home with friends and relatives there, Reverend Loveland
of the Palestine Church performed the ceremony. In the evening the Redding Band came out and serenaded us and our friends
Ettie and Sherman Rush who were married the day before.
Julia (BAIRD) and Orin G. SPENCER
We located in St. Joe [St. Joseph, Missouri] for 2 years, having our first baby there, which only lived 2 months. We
later moved to Mt. Ayr for almost 2 years, then decided the farm best for us. Our two oldest girls, Goldia and Gladys,
was then with us, and while they were quite small I contracted the cold which deprived me of my hearing. [second ear to
After changing places, we located on a farm in Middlefork Township, where we raised
our 7 children. Finally retired to Mt. Ayr where we have remained rest of our life, until June 7, 1947, when he was
taken from me. Now at my 85th birthday, I have 27 grandchildren; 33 great grandchildren, of which 2 were adopted on
January 1, 1952. All of my family are good to me, and I think the happiest day of my life was on our Golden Anniversary
in Mt Ayr in 1940, when all but 2 of my grandchildren were present."
[signed] Julia Belle (Baird) Spencer
Julia died on April 11th, 1953 at the home of her daughter Goldia SHEUMAKER. She was interred
beside her husband Orin at Rose Hill Cemetery, Mount Ayr, Iowa.
Submitted by Delbert Spencer, April of 2009
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