EIGHTY PLUS: 1861 to 1945
By Lydia Mantle Fox
TO LEVANTIA FOX COOPER
Who asked me to tell it.
My dear Levantia:
You call me The Indomitable and have asked me to tell you something of my life, and so I am going to piece together scraps of memories just as Aunt Sarah, May, Grace and I pieced together scraps, of silk and velvet to make our crazy quilts, so many years ago.
The result may be without rhyme or reason but I am sure I will enjoy doing it for I have collected pleasant memories and good friends all my life. Memories and friends are the wealth of age and I am rich in both. On my eightieth birthday, they gave me a surprise party and among my guests were representatives of each of the six decades since I came to Washington from the Eighteen-eighties to the Nineteen-forties.
Lydia M. Fox is one of the very interesting women in Washington, which abounds in interesting persons. Miss Fox has lived an interesting life because she has welcomed every opportunity to make her life interesting. During a very long residence in the Capital she has never grown old. Past eighty she is young in mind and spirit because she has kept abreast of history, politics, current events, literature and the theatre.
As the first public stenographer in Washington she knew many national figures - Presidents, Cabinet Officers, Senators, Congressmen and prominent persons about Washington. She is a storehouse of interesting stories and events.
For many years she has lived right on famous Washington Circle. It would be incorrect to say she has watched the world go by. More accurately with her keen inquiring mind and liberal philosophy she has been a part of all she has seen and heard.
For many years she has been unable to walk and from her bed has conducted her work as a Notary Public. Thousands have come to her bedside and she has been asked questions to try the metal of judges, lawyers, doctors, welfare workers and clergymen. All who have met her have gone away the better.
Miss Fox is a lover of cats. Her walls are covered with pictures of every kind of cat in every kind of mood. For many years her faithful Vicky has been her silent and watchful companion.
Over a long period Miss Fox worked on her book. It is the heartfelt and intimate account of her experiences in Northern New York, the Philippine Islands and the Nation's Capitol.
The reader will find this book the interesting account of an interesting woman. Life to her was never dull because she knew how to find the interesting in what many would have passed by as the commonplace.
Seth R. Brooks
The history of the Fox Family, so far as I know it, goes back to the War of the Revolution.
My Great-great-grandfather, Abraham Fox, was a soldier of the Revolution and died in Boston of smallpox. His home was Glastonberry, Connecticut, and he left a widow with a large family. They were afterwards scattered and I do not know what became of them with the exception of my Great-grandfather Elisha Fox. Many of the Foxes all over the United States are probably kin.
My knowledge of the family in early days is gathered from the records painstakingly compiled by the cousin of my father, Washington Irving Fox.
Late in the Seventeen-hundreds, Great-grandfather Elisha with Great-grandfather James Harris came with others from Connecticut to central New York where land had been set aside for free distribution. There were no roads and they blazed the trees to mark their path.
The story goes that they drew lots as to who should cook, with the understanding that the first to complain was to become cook. Great-grandfather Harris was the first and he became very tired for no one found any fault. He finally decided that they should criticise [sic] so he cooked some beans and made them salt as brine. Great-grandfather Fox tasted them and said:
"Those beans is most eternal salt," then realizing the penalty, added, "But they are the better for it."
Those Connecticut farmers established a settlement in Cortland and it was said that they planted a crop of potatoes and then went back for their families.
There must have been a large smattering of classical scholars among those settlers for among, the names of places they settled were Homer, Pompey Hill, Fabius and Syracuse.
There was quite a family of little Foxes brought from Connecticut, one of them, Great-uncle Hubbell Fox was the father of Cousin Irving Fox.
After they settled in Cortland, my Grandfather Alfred was born. There were a lot of girls. They married and begat large families. There were Babcocks, Bogarduses, Browns, Griswolds, Risleys and others, few of whom I ever met, families now scattered all over the United States.
Grandfather married Lucy Harris, daughter of the cook, the one who salted the beans. James Harris had a large family, and many years ago, I came to know Aunt Sallie Blanchard, the eldest Harris daughter. She was the grandmother of Fay Parsons, now editor of the Cortland Democrat.
Aunt Sallie took me to her heart and told me what she said she had never told anyone -- that Alfred was her first sweetheart and she showed me a poem which he wrote to her more than sixty years before. He had married her younger sister but had evidently never lost his place in her heart, and, in turn, he had told me of her perfections, and when I told her the things he had said about her, it made her very happy.
About 1830, Great-grandfather Elisha Fox and his wife Clarinda, Great-uncle Dr. Hubbell Fox, his wife Lucinda and their children, Grandfather Alfred Fox and his wife Lucy and my father, James Harris Fox, an infant, came up to Jefferson County, which had been opened for settlement. Tradition has it that there were no bridges and they had to ford all the streams on the way. They settled in the town of Clayton, at Depauville.
This part of the country had been settled by the French, many of them having fled there after the French Revolution. The names were nearly all French. There was Chaumont, Depauville, Lafargeville, Lorraine, Theresa and a host of others. Clayton had first been called French Creek.
Grandfather and Dr. Hubbell Fox soon became active in civic affairs.
Right here, I must tell you about Great-aunt Lucinda, wife of Dr. Hubbell. She was the mother of Washington Irving, Flora and Hubbell Jr. Dr. Hubbell Fox died early and Great-aunt Lucinda went in later life to California with Flora and Hubbell Jr. She was born late in 1799, lived through the Eighteen-hundreds and died early in 1900, one hundred years and three months old and having lived in three centuries.
On the occasion of her hundredth birthday, there was a big fiesta in her honor in the little California town where she lived. And, best of all, she kept her faculties until the end and walked in the garden the day she died.
Poor Grandmother Lucy. What a hard life she had. Her children were James Harris, my father, George, who died in infancy, Mary Jane, Aunt Manic, who was my champion, mentor and dearest friend for many, many years, Emily, who was burned to death in infancy I do not know how, but I think scalded with hot water. I remember Aunt Mary telling me of the smell of slightly rancid oil with which they bathed the poor tortured baby, and which odor haunted her all her life. There was another George and then Byron, a few months old when poor tired Lucy died, with so many babies, the hardships of pioneer life and small means!
Grandfather told me of looking at some knives and forks in a store and when he asked the price, being told so much ----- "cash'' He said he vowed then that no one would ever again question his ability to pay, and that he would be a rich man, and be became, like Calsworthy's Forsyte, a "Man of property."
Dr. Hubbell Fox died early and father became the head of his family, as well as having the responsibility of Great-grandfather Elisha and his wife Clarinda. Elisha died in the fifties but I remember Great-grandmother Clarinda when I was a little girl.
After the death of Grandmother Lucy, Grandfather married Olive Bent. Olive was a gentle, kindly woman. She always called Grandfather Mr. Fox and he usually addressed her as Woman.
Olive's children were Charles Alfred, Hattie, Nellie Adell, Frank and Alfred, always called Fred. I remember Fred telling me that he was a seventh son.
Grandfather had not too high an opinion of women and agreed with St. Paul, "Let the women keep silence."
My mother seemed to be an exception.
When Cousin Irving and my father were bumptious youths, the boys in school rose in their might and threw the schoolteacher out in the snow. Whereupon, Grandfather went out on the Creek to ask Aunt Lydia Skeels to recommend a teacher. He had married Olive Bent from her home. She was Grandmother Mantle's sister. They were daughters of Captain Tilly Richardson and I must tell about him.
Captain Richardson was a Revolutionary soldier and an early settler of Jefferson County. He was a lad at the time of the Battle of Long Island and the story goes that some of the horses belonging to the British had strayed a little way. Great-grandfather Tilly managed to drive them farther away and by the time the British found out what he was doing, they were out of reach, whereupon Great-grandfather Tilly put his thumb to his nose in a gesture of derision.
Aunt Lydia was bright as a button when I, a young girl, saw her, and I remember my astonishment when I saw her in bed with white hair. I had always before seen brilliant black eyes, a black false front and a black lace cap.
Aunt Lydia celebrated her golden wedding on the farm where she was born and married, and I remember the wonderful spring which gave the farm its name-Spring Farm.
Grandfather went to her for advice as to a teacher and she sent him to a nearby farm to interview her niece, Lydia, the youngest daughter of her sister, Dorothy Mantle.
Grandfather carried my mother back with him. She was a girl of sixteen. She had good success with the school and captured the hearts of two of her pupils, Cousin Irving and my father. Both men loved her as long as they lived.
I once asked Cousin Irving if I were at all like her and he said my voice and my laugh, perhaps a little, but he gave me to understand in no uncertain terms that I could never hold a candle to her.
I will tell more about Cousin Irving later but now to the winter when Mother taught school in the Fox District.
Grandfather admired her greatly. They read poetry and other things. One family legend was that Grandfather had been to town for the last installment of Dickens, current novel, David Copperfield, I think.
It was evening. They were before the fire with Uncle Charles, a baby, in the cradle. One read and the other rocked the cradle. The story waxed dramatic and the rocking forceful until the luckless baby was rocked out on to the floor.
Grandfather used to say that my mother was the only woman he ever knew who could read poetry properly.
Grandfather quoted poetry by the volume. He knew every line in the old English reader. I have his copy, given me by Aunt Mary. He would quote Pope, Dryden, Milton and many others by the hour and I am sure that no one could quote a line of Byron or Shakespeare incorrectly, without his correcting it.
He had a whiplash wit. Unfortunately, many of his sallies are unquotable but I cannot forbear giving this: characterizing someone, he said, "He's the sort to wet his breeches to warm his legs."
I remember once when Frank and Rose were there. It was shortly before Hattie was born. It was Sunday night and we were having the most delectable meal, in the pantry, lunching on the remains of dinner. We were picking the bones of a delicious sparerib, and Rose said, "Father, don't you think Frank should give me some of that?"
"Of course," said Grandfather. "Whenever you multiply, he should divide."
He liked to talk with, or rather to me, for I was always too much in awe of him to say much, but he did say: "I could make a better politician of you than of any of my boys."
His boys were all a disappointment to him. I suppose because he was so uncompromising with them and everyone was abashed before him.
I was abashed enough. Never have I seen anyone who came near my Grandfather in intellectual stature, and I've known some of the great and the near great of the world in every field. Of course Grandfather was not what he seemed to me or there would have been no bounds to his attainments, and when I wish I might have known him years later, I think again that I am glad that he could never be dwarfed in my eyes.
He was always in public affairs, though of the unpopular political party. He was a Democrat in that stronghold of Republicanism, and I know if I were fortunate enough to have the vote, which we of the District do not have, no possible exigency could tempt me to vote anything but the straight Democratic ticket, I would feel that I had failed my Grandfather if I did otherwise.
He held all the town and county offices, went to the Legislature and was a member of the convention which nominated Franklin Pierce. Uncle Frank was named for President Pierce.
Grandfather was customs officer at Cape Vincent, which place has always captured my imagination. It was settled by French émigrés and there was a house, where they planned to secrete Napoleon Bonaparte when they succeeded in getting him away from St. Helena.
There was a quaint old French couple who used to at Grandfather's, coming from Cape Vincent were fascinating to me and I wove many stories about them. Their name was DeZangremel and they took snuff.
When his boys were of age, Grandfather gave each two thousand dollars to start out on his own. Father took his money and went to Waukesha, Wisconsin, and engaged in the lumber business. The venture was short lived and he soon lost his shirt. I have heard him tell how the site of his business went for next to nothing and was later the most thriving and valuable part of that city.
Then he married my mother.
At that time, Grandfather was in the Custom House in Cape Vincent. Their house was newly furnished and the beautiful mahogany sofa and lovely gilt mirror are still in the family. We also have the exquisite mulberry dishes which were bought for the festivities honoring the newly married pair and for many years, I cherished a glass goblet from the festive board. It has been lost and I would give a lot to have it now with its design of lilies.
Father and mother went out to Iowa, which was just being settled. I presume Father took up public land. They settled in Horton, Bremer County, and before a year had passed, I was born. I've always been glad that I selected February 22nd, 1861, for my advent. It is very convenient to have a birthday on a National Holiday.
My poor little mother got on well for some days and then, as she and father were eating supper, he quoted some poetry. She corrected a mistake and went on and finished the poem, then on to other poetry and never again spoke an understandable word. I have so often wished I had asked my father what poetry she quoted, but that is one of the things I will never know and will always regret.
When I was ten days old, my mother died and was buried March fourth, the day of Lincoln's first inauguration. I was given her name, Lydia Mantle.
As soon as it could be arranged, Aunt Stears, one of the older Mantle girls and a widow, came for the baby and carried me back to New York State to Levantia, called Van, the sister next in age to my mother. She was keeping house for her father and mother. Aunt Stears had been living with an older brother, Dr. John Mantle, in Vincennes, Indiana.
Father enlisted in the Civil war, just then beginning, and after a while was discharged, invalided, and I think, without seeing any actual combat. I remember his telling me of a meal he shared which seemed quite tasty until he was told that the meat was rattlesnake.
Returning, he asked Mother Van to marry him. Dear Mother Van! She had been engaged for years to a man who was in business in New York. She had beautiful gifts from him and for years, I had the loveliest pink cameo I ever saw, a gold chain and a gold pen which he had given her.
Years later, I was told that when they carried Mother Van to her grave, the procession passed the toll gate kept by the family of her lover and where he lay dying. He had never married and I hope that luckless pair of lovers were finally united.
Mother Van could not give up the baby so she went back with Father to the Prairie Farm.
She lost her first baby, a boy, and as was the custom in those days, had a puppy to nurse the milk. I adored the little black dog and my first memory is of Pompey, my little Puppy Brother. That summer, I remember walking up and down with Mother Van beside a field where men were mowing, and calling, "Pompey, Pom." That night, I remember how Mother Van and I cried over the little dead dog and that they said he had been bitten by a rattlesnake.
Another thing I remember of that summer is my first lie. Mother had put out a custard pie to cool. Then, as to this day, that is the most delicious food in the world and I very much like the sweet wrinkled skin which forms on top. I looked at the pie. The temptation was too great and I finally peeled the pie. Mother looked at the pie. Then she looked at me. I felt that I must speak and mildly suggested, "Perhaps it was the cat".
|Pages 20 - 29||Mother looked at me and even now
I can feel her hand on my shoulder and hear her soft voice say, "I
am afraid it was my little cat."
The next I remember, it was near Christmas. I had been away and drove up to the door. There was a heavy snow and they lifted me out of the sled-a wagon box on runners-out of the straw and buffalo robes, and set me on the doorstep. I ran into the house-just one big room. There on the bed was Mother and in the crook of her arm, a little black head emerging from a red shawl.
Mother held out her hand and I ran across the room crying, "Pompey's come back! Pompey's come back."
Mother pulled down the shawl and said, "No, Daughter, this isn't Pompey. This is your little sister."
I must have been a very naughty child for I remember stamping my feet and crying "I don't want a baby sister. I won't have a baby sister. I want my Puppy Brother."
The next spring, back we went to New York State. Grandfather owned a lot of farms and it was arranged that Father and Uncle Byron should ran what was called "The Big Farm." It had several hundred acres, and on it was the "Big Barn" the largest in that section and a landmark for that part of the country.
Little sister had been named Hattie for Father's sister who had died the year before. She was Grandmother Olive's second child and a beauty.
Grandfather lived on another farm nearer Depauville. There was a big family: Mary, Charles, Nellie, Frank and Fred, the two Great-grandmothers, Fox and Bent, and Grandmother and Grandfather Alfred Fox.
On that farm was a spring and sort of swamp where I can remember cows standing. There used to be will o' wisps over that swamp and once in a while, the occupants of the farm would have a siege of typhoid. The year before we came back to New York, there had been an epidemic in which George and Hattie had died and Grandmother Olive was near death.
I used to love to go down to Grandfather's. I was the first grand-child and, of course, a good deal of a pet. Aunt Nellie was a big girl and I remember how she would go to the bridge by the schoolhouse, half way home and then walk backward toward her home, the while encouraging me to go on home alone.
They tell the story that at dinner at Grandfather's I asked for more gravy. Grandfather took up the spoon and looked at the platter on which rested the meat, and said there was no more, but I suggested, -- "If you will give me that dish, I think I can find a great sufficiency."
I was five and my father decided that it was time I knew my letters and I remember a rainy day when he set himself to see that I did, and he whipped me again and again because I could not tell P from Q or b from d. I remember how dear Mother Van cried and tried to show me the difference while he went out to milk with the threat of another whipping if I could not tell them apart when he came back.
That summer, I committed my first theft. I had been down the Chaumont road to play with Jay Lee, and one of his possessions, a red tin cup, so fascinated me that it stuck to my fingers. When I got home, Mother Van showed me the enormity of my crime and told me I must take it back and say that I was sorry. So down the road I trudged, crying bitterly, "I don't want to be a stealer."
The Lee kitchen where we played was just as when I left but there was not a soul in sight so I set down the cup and ran home as fast as my legs could carry me.
I liked to set myself up as an oracle to my playmates, Nettie Lee and Nellie Lowe, and while we were playing in the orchard, the scent of a chinch bug on the berry bushes came to our noses, whereupon I said, "That must be a monkey bug."
I do not know why I said monkey but perhaps that was the only foreign animal I had been told about.
About this time, some one gave me my first book, Goody Two Shoes.
In October of that year, Brother Jim was born and Mother Van died. The death of the two sisters, Lydia and Levantia, was due, of course, to the ignorance of sanitation which was the cause of the death of so many young wives, and that was why cemeteries were full of stones with the names of infants and young mothers.
I think Oliver Wendell Holmes was the first apostle of absolute cleanliness in childbirth, and he said that there were more deaths in young mothers from a doctor's dirty fingernails than from any other cause.
After the marriage of Mother Van to my father, Aunt Stears came back from Indiana to keep house for her father and mother. Aunt Stears was born Dorothy Mantle and had married a neighbor, Albert Stears. He had died soon after marriage.
I remember Grandfather and Grandmother Mantle very slightly. Grandmother Mantle, born Dorothy Richardson, was tall and straight and with brilliant black eyes. She had a large family of children, several of whom died in infancy. I am not sure of the order of birth but there was John Richardson, who studied medicine and was one of the earliest physicians in central Indiana. There was Bethia. She married Fabius Miles and they went to Michigan to live. They were by way of being intellectuals and rather ahead of their time.
Laura married Charles Sheldon and they settled in Cedar County, Iowa.
Aunt Stears was one of the older girls. There was Edward who married and went to Michigan, where he had a family of Mantles but I have lost track of them and the Miles family. Then there was William who married Pamelia Gillette and lived in part of the house on the Mantle place. Levantia and Lydia were the youngest of the brood.
The "Old Mantle Place" was "Out on the Creek" and nearby was the place settled by Great-grandfather Richardson and where he had fathered a large family. There were lots of girls who married and had large families. There were Hungerfords, Mileses, Sheldons, Paddocks, Mantles, Skeels and I do not know how many more, and there were several Richardson sons.
The Mantle house must have been large for it had been divided and Grandfather Mantle's family lived on one side and Uncle Will and Aunt Pamele on the other.
They had a large family. There was Byron, Emma, Gertrude,-we called her Getty-Burnie, (Robert Burns, father of the dramatic critic, Burns Mantle), Will, Carrie and Clover. Vannie Clare came later.
There was a stone wall down to the road and the yard was on the level of the wall top. There was a double stile to the road and between the steps was a space for a most delightful playhouse and I remember how we would bury ourselves in the leaves which we piled in there.
About the time of Mother Van's death, Grandmother Mantle died, so Grandfather went to live with Uncle Will, and Aunt Stears came to care for Mother Van's orphan children. There were Sister Hattie, Baby Jim and Yours Truly.
That winter, Aunt Stears took the Christian Union and Matilda Jocelyn Gage was writing a series of stories of mythology made easy for children. Aunt Stears used to read them to me and I would watch for the paper and when it came, if she were busy, I would pore over it, spelling out the hard words, and I learned to read on the "Adventures of Hercules."
That winter, Sarah Carver was the schoolteacher and Grandfather made a match between her and my father. It used to be said that that was the only match he engineered in his family, and the one he liked least in later years.
Sarah Carver and her family went in the spring to Wisconsin and father, Aunt Stears and I went back to Iowa, leaving Hattie and Baby Jim at Grandfather's in the care of Grandmother Olive and Aunt Manie.
Tradition has it that Aunt Stears hinted that Father's marriage to a third Mantle girl would be appropriate, though she was much older than he and had been a widow many years. However, Father wasn't having any. Besides, he was going to Wisconsin later after Sarah Carver.
Uncle Byron was going to stay on the farm and marry Sarah Gloyd.
During these years, Uncle Byron used to have terrible attacks which they called inflammation of the bowels. These were probably attacks of appendicitis, a disease which was not diagnosed until years later. In one of these attacks, when it was thought he must die, they used a traditional remedy. A black cat was killed, ripped open and put, still warm, on his bare stomach. He got well, cat or no cat.
Little Hattie was a lovely child and a beauty. Aunt Mary used to tell of her accomplishments and how one day when Aunt Nellie had a beau and the conversation lagged. Hattie broke in with, "Wouldn't you like to hear Nellie play the Bird Waltz?"
Then there was Albert, Jennie, a tall, handsome blonde. There is a sad story about her which I may tell later. Then came Dollie, named for Grandmother Dorothy Richardson Mantle, and Mary Lydia.
There were four of us cousins, about my age, three having my mother's name. There was Lydia Miles, who was always called Birdie, Mary Lydia Sheldon. I was Lydia Mantle Fox and the fourth was Chloe Dell Mantle, who later I dubbed Clover.
Father, Aunt Stears and I went back to Iowa in the spring. I was six years old. On the way, we stopped at Niagara and I remember Father carrying me in his arms behind the wall of water.
Father settled in Wilton, going back to the lumber business, and Aunt Stears and I went to Tipton, fifteen miles away and near the farm of Uncle Charles and Aunt Laura Sheldon.
Uncle Charles was a giant of a man with a thatch of curly hair, a voice like a fog horn and a hand like the hand of Providence, as Aunt Stears said. The thing I remember best about him was his wrath because Aunt Laura (I think it must have been on the advice of Aunt Bethia Miles) subscribed for what must have been the very first magazine advocating Womans' [sic] Rights. I think it was Sorosis and was edited by Jennie Croly.
Aunt Stears and I stayed at Uncle Sheldon's farm until she bought a little house in Tipton.
There was a large family of Sheldons. Frank had just come back from the war. He had been in prison, I think Libby, and a brother had died in the war.
It must have been the preceding summer before the death of Mother Van when I had stood in a crowd in Watertown and seen soldiers marching, just home from the war
Mary Sheldon was a little younger than I and her threat, "I won't like you if you don't," always made me do exactly as she wished.
Then, the Sixties, was the time of great migration to the West and from Uncle Sheldon's house, we could see across the prairie, lines of covered wagons, prairie schooners, stretching from horizon to horizon.
The land was laid out in sections - I think 640 acres square but I never could be sure of figures,-and the roads were laid out perfectly straight with geometric precision, and the prairie was smooth as a floor.
Mary and I liked to watch the movers. The family liked to tease her and tell her that the movers had left her, and they called her Tooter because of the fits of weeping to which she was subject, and which were always accompanied with the most distressing toots. She was only a few months younger than I but I felt myself a veteran in comparison.
While at Uncle Sheldon's, I remember going to church in a schoolhouse where someone sang "Shall We Gather at the River," a new song. All the Sheldons sang and it was their proud boast that on hearing a tune once, it was always theirs.
Another thing Mary and I liked to watch was tumblebugs. They were big black bugs-beetles, I suppose-and they would roll up balls of dirt or dung and, standing on their hind legs, roll them along. I do not know where or why. They rolled the balls in a straight line -perhaps a wagon track, and if the balls, higher than the heads of the bugs, struck a barrier, and rolled back, the bug might be knocked head over heels, but they always came back to the task.
Another thing we liked to watch was tumbleweed. I do not know what it was like while growing but, when dry, the weeds would snap off and, a perfectly dry ball, the wind would take them. Clumps of them would cling together and, like miniature haystacks, take off across the fields and in the fence corners, there would be great hay piles.
We loved to gather the wild flowers which were everywhere, and especially in the early spring, on the land plowed in the fall. That rich land! I remember how my heart swelled with pride some years later when a teacher said that a cubic yard of Iowa soil was the richest in the world.
Aunt Stears bought a little gray brick house. In the front yard was a butternut tree at the right and a walnut tree at the left.
She loved flowers and soon had them all around the house. There was a lovely moss rose and many other roses, syringas and, best of all, a bush with brown blossoms of incredible sweetness which was just called shrub.
In the back was a vegetable garden and how many hours I spent on my knees, weeding the strawberry bed. Then there was a cow, Beauty, and a pig which I dubbed Romeo. I milked Beauty when I could not have been more than eight.
My very first lesson in economics was when Aunt Stears sold Beauty and the man who bought her sold her later for a larger amount. I insisted that it was dishonest and it took considerable argument before I could understand that profit could be honestly gained. And I took plenty of convincing.
Aunt Stears used to say, "Look at that bump of stubbornness. Just like Grandpa Fox!"
The feeling of dislike was mutual and Grandfather detested Aunt Stears.
|Pages 30 - 37||sent around to the front to open
it. That seemed like, a good time to escape, so out of the yard and down
the street I sped, determined to walk to Wilton, fifteen miles away. Father
had married Sarah Carver by this time and the rest of the family were
At the edge of town, I grew tired and went into a field where I sat down to rest among some hazel bushes. Pretty soon, Aunt Stears came after me and spied me among the bushes. She began to argue with me, and being sure that she had convinced me, said, "You can take your choice. Go on, or come back."
I allowed that I would go on but, of course she made me go back with her.
Aunt Stears was what they called "airy" and I remember when I had an organ and had taken a few music lessons, and had learned to play "Sing Brothers, Sing," we had visitors and she said, "Lydia, if you are not too much fatigued, will you perform something on your instrument?"
After we were settled, Father in Wilton and Aunt Stears and I in Tipton, Father took me with him to, Wisconsin where he married Sarah Carver, and then we all went to New York State after little Hattie and Baby Jim. Hattie was a lovely child and Jim a dumpling of a baby.
I have often thought how hard it must have been for Mother Sarah, a prude to the nth degree, and not in the least domestic or adaptable, to start out her married life on a long railroad journey with three children. It took three days to go from Iowa to New York . There were no sleeping cars and had there been, Father would have thought that an unpardonable extravagance
Mother Sarah was a strange woman. I have always believed that had my mother or Mother Van lived, they would have smoothed out or never allowed to develop, Father's eccentricities, for he admired and respected both so highly and he adored my mother as long as he lived. But, with Sarah, his oddities increased.
I have thought, too, that had I not been related to my father, but had known him casually, I would I have enjoyed him. He had read much and with good judgment and could quote poetry-not like Grandfather, but with a good deal of taste. But he was so impractical, so slovenly, and did everything so badly at that, as I grew older, everything was an affront to my pride.
He had many qualities, however, which I recognize myself. For one thing, his optimism. For that, I am grateful because I have carried myself through seemed insurmountable difficulties by saying over and over again, "It is going to be all right."
Another thing in which I see myself is his love of a bargain. He usually got the wrong end and I flatter myself that I usually get what I pay for. Nearly everything in all my houses has been bought at auction though I have had my share of white elephants, ... I got has averaged up pretty well.
He would come home with the most unlikely impractical things. I remember once he got two pairs of shoes for me. One pair was heavy leather hoppers and the other about half as wide and much . I had to wear them and my feet were squeezed those of a Chinese baby girl, and to this day my are deformed because of them.
Mother Sarah was almost as erratic as he and had test influence on him.
Aunt Stears for several years and ... to Vincennes to visit Uncle John first wife, Caroline Brandon, had died young, leaving a daughter, Harriet. Aunt Stears cared for her for several years and then Uncle John married Aunt Eliza, such a good woman. Hattie was a young lady, very pretty, and with gorgeous red hair. Her Grandfather, Judge Brandon, was a rich man and he adored Hattie. Uncle John and Aunt Eliza had an adopted daughter, Sallie, or at least, she lived with them. I believe her parents were patients of Dr. John and after their death, he took care of her. She was a little older than I. Our greatest joy was when Hattie showed us her jewelry and allowed us to handle it. It had been given her by her Grandfather Brandon. It was the day of long earrings and I remember a lovely set of amethysts, brooch and earrings, and one of coral branches, twined with gold. It seemed that the pieces were endless.
I remember that there was a story about a stone from a ring being lost. The house was heated by fireplaces and under each was a trap door which opened, so that the ashes fell into the cellar. When this diamond was lost, they sifted the ashes from the parlor fireplace and found the stone.
During that visit, a large party was given. Sallie and I eagerly watched the preparation of the refreshments. To me, used to the most frugal fare, the food was most alluring. I am not sure that I had ever seen an orange and I am sure that I had never seen a coconut and when they cut up oranges and grated coconuts and I was told that the name of
wonderful concoction was Ambrosia, Food of the poetic soul was as enchanted with the name as were my eyes with the beauty and my taste with anticipation. I cannot see why a child was not given a taste, but we could only look and smell.
We watched the service of the guests until the last morsel was gone and to this day, I feel defrauded that it was many years later that I tasted Ambrosia.
On my birthday, I was given a little party. I was hostess at the table and though I was consumed with pride, I felt, as did most hostesses of that day, that I must apologize, expecting, of course, like other hostesses, protestations from the guests that everything was perfect.
I tried to think what to say and finally stammered that it was not a very nice party. To my horror, it did not work out right and Aunt Eliza protested herself much hurt at my ingratitude, and I just could not explain.
The next summer, Hattie visited Iowa and her fiancé, William Brevoort, came to take her home. I showed him our little town and we went into a drug store. There, for the first time, I saw a soda fountain, and I said: "I like that-I think I do." He bought me some soda but I am not sure I did like it. It made my nose feel funny.
Hattie married William Brevoort, who was a prosperous farmer, and they had two children, but she died young, of spotted fever, which I think is now known ,as meningitis. I remember Aunt Stears' grief when read the letters telling of her sickness and death and sent me a little pair of earrings which had belonged to her and many years later, I gave them to ~~~~ Hattie's baby daughter, Mary, died in infancy and Aunt Eliza brought up the son, John Mantle Brevoort. After the death of his father, John carried on his business and when I visited Indiana not many years ago, he took me over his farms. He owned thousands acres of rich bottom lands in Indiana and Illinois. I specially remember the towering silos on every farm. And the protecting levees to save the land during the spring flood. John is a fine man and very good to his Mantle kin.
When Aunt Stears died, she left what little she had to me. She should not have done it for Aunt Eliza, with little means after Uncle John's death, had given her a home. I sent part of the money she left to Aunt Eliza. I am sure it was because of that that John Brevoort has been most generous to me when I have had hard times.
During this visit, John Brevoort showed me a book the proceedings of the town council of what was afterwards the Borough of New York. The Brevoorts figured on every page.
When a child, I had no toys and one Christmas, I prayed for a doll. The next door neighbor, the Minister's wife, had a doll head-discarded by her daughter -, it was bisque and had been broken from the body but she and Aunt Stears fastened it on with a stocking leg and my youthful piety was rewarded, and to me, it was beautiful with its pink cheeks and blue eyes. I was small and dark with straight brown hair, and its blue eyes and curls to me were the ultimate in beauty.
Sister Hattie died of diphtheria soon after being brought to Iowa. She was sent back to New York and when the body arrived, they said it was turned on its side. Doubtless it had been caused by the motion of the train but I have often shuddered at the possibility that the poor baby had not been dead when put in the coffin.
Mother Sarah soon had Fred, Florence, and Lucy. Van came along many years later.
Fred was a forlorn sort of a youngster, and when a baby had a terrible sore on his head. This left a large scar which no hair could hide. Besides this he stammered dreadfully.
Aunt Stears finally went back to Indiana to live with Uncle John and I went to Wilton to live. Father had gone from one thing to another, a little poorer each time.
The housekeeping was the veriest drudgery. Aunt Stears and I had lived meagerly enough but she was a good housekeeper and her little home was neat and attractive but it was just the opposite with Mother Sarah. She worked hard but it seemed to me that she used as much ingenuity to make things hard as did other women to make things convenient and work easy. She was never fond of me and when I wanted to call her Mama as did the other children, she would not allow it. And yet, she was a good woman, according to her lights.
We were very poor. I well remember when my Sunday school teacher Charlie McIntire, married Jennie. The class gave twenty-five cents apiece to get them a present, but Father was deaf to all my pleas and I was the only child who did not share in that gift. And, worse than that, when the youngsters in school gave a little concert where I was to sing: "To the West, to the West, to the land of the free" and the little girls were to sell tickets, I sold one and then lost the quarter, and was not given the money to replace it.
Charlie McIntire was such a fine young man and I have often wished that I might have known him in later years. I have remembered, I hope with profit, a talk he gave his class from the text: "If ye would have friends, you must show yourselves friendly."
Mother Sarah's brother, Uncle Nat Carver, traveled over the country introducing Ivison, Phinney & Blakeman's text books a revolution from the old McGuffey's readers, and once a lot of sample copies were left at our house. One was Aima Randall's "Elocution" and I learned most of the long poems and declaimed them everywhere. Not many years ago, stopping before a second hand book store, I found a copy of this old "Elocution," and felt as if I had found a gold mine. Not long ago someone asked in the Clearing House of the Washington Star, for the poem, "Darius Green and his Flying Machine." I copied and sent it and enjoyed over again my triumph when, as a youngster, I was applauded for my rendition of the poem.
We were poor but somehow, the others seemed to get what they needed and Mother Sarah, who sold milk (which I delivered) managed to dress fairly well but I never had anything. I suffered terribly from chilblains and knew just what he meant when David Harurn said that in his youth, he knew only two seasons, chilblains and stone bruises.
While I lived with Aunt Stears, she managed to dress me fairly well, making over clothes which had belonged to my mother and other people, but after I went to Wilton, it seemed that I had nothing. I remember one winter when my only wrap was a thin shawl which had to be folded in a certain way because a big hole had been burned in the center.
|Pages 39 - 49||CHAPTER 2
When Sister Lucy was born, I was very small and thin, and was sixteen years old. By this time, Uncle Frank had come to Iowa. Feeling that I ought to have a better chance than I was getting, he took me back with him to Grandfather's.
Since our branch of the family had gone to Iowa, there had been many changes in the family. The two Great-grandmothers had died. Uncle Byron had married Sarah Gloyd and they had three children, May, Will and Grace, all born within three years. They lived on the big farm. Aunt Nellie had married James Lee and they had one daughter, Genevieve. They lived in Omar, a dozen miles away, where Uncle James had a store. Uncle Charlie had married James Lee's sister, Cynthia, called Tinnie, and they had three children. Hubbell died in infancy. It was said that he had climbed up on a milk rack and fallen, hurting his head. They thought that his injury was slight but he died soon after, probably from concussion. Uncle Charlie and Tinnie also had Nellie and Herman. Tinnie died young and Charlie had married Alice Moyer, a pretty woman with lovely auburn hair. They had a son, Ross, about the age of my sister Lucy. It was years later that Elsie was born. They lived on the old farm and Grandfather had moved back to the village. The family consisted of Grandfather and Grandmother, Aunt Manie and Fred, a few years older than I.
Then began a new life. Aunt Manie loved me and I am sure that Grandfather did, although he was never one to show affection. Grandmother was a sweet, gentle woman, usually quiet, but with an occasional flash of wit and I often find myself using some of her quaint expressions. She was such a good housekeeper and such a good cook.
How well I remember some of her specialties. She made salt-rising bread. It smells awful when rising but no other bread can compare with the finished product.
There was a maple sugar cake, the like of which I have never seen. She would shave the sugar from the large cake, the size of a milk pan, and weighing perhaps ten pounds, and costing less than white sugar. This shaved sugar would be put in the cake batter, shortened with sour cream, and the little lumps left in the shavings would melt into little eaves of sweetness to be laid open when the cake was cut. Then there were sweetened biscuits, of course shortened with sour cream.
Grandmother's creamed codfish or salt pork with cream gravy on baked potatoes was something for an epicure.
And the stock Sunday dinner - chicken and biscuit -was the best I ever tasted. Her fried chicken was always made with the chicken stewed a little first in a round bottomed iron pot, and then fried brown. And the cream gravy! Yes, cream, and made with all the little brown flakes from the frying stirred in. These were big pans of biscuits, made with sour cream. They were split, each half dipped in the pot of gravy, then piled in a tureen and the gravy poured over them. YUM! MUM! What would I give for a taste right now. Though I have not the appetite of youth, I am sure that Grandmother's cooking would seem perfect to me today.
All the family, daughters and daughters-in-law, learned to make it Grandmother's way and for many years, in the Fox Family, a Sunday dinner was not really legal without chicken and biscuit.
And every Sunday, the families would pile into the double buggies and gather at one of the homes. And such dinners!
Aunt Sarah was a wonderful housekeeper and the most capable person I ever knew, and dinner would appear as if by magic.
Aunt Nellie would have a nice dinner with no great effort.
But at Uncle Charlie's! Alice's sister Nancy Howk lived with them. They were good cooks but painfully slow and it was always said that the family never had such good visits as at Charlie's, for they always had to wait so long for their dinners. Then Uncle Charlie was so slow in serving that it was an ordeal to watch him, and we grew hungrier and hungrier.
Of course, the family all met oftenest at Grandfather's where I helped Grandmother and Aunt Mary get the dinner.
One of Grandmother's sayings was that she did not consider anyone a good cook who could make something with everything to work with. She thought a good cook was someone who could make something good with little to work with. And dear Aunt Nellie certainly fulfilled that requirement. In later years, when I would visit her she would always ask how long I could stay. I would tell her two days-three days-and she would plan her menus so as to give me as many of my favorite dishes as could be managed. And she would fix a meat pie with a few scraps of this and that and it would be a meal for an epicure. And never could anyone make as good bread pudding or custard pie.
Grandmother always had buckwheat cakes for breakfast in winter, cakes made in a blue pitcher, started with yeast in the fall and carried on until spring, fresh flour stirred in each night. And the sausage which went with the cakes! She made the sausage in the fall, seasoned just right. Little cakes were then partly fried and put down in a big stone jar and when full, the hot fat poured over it. And there was maple syrup or soft maple sugar. And Grandmother's coffee! None other was ever so good except Aunt Nellie's. Pouring it was a rite. There was a pitcher of cream and one of hot milk. Into each cup was put just the right amount of sugar, cream and hot milk, and the coffee poured over this, the taste of each one being considered. And there must never a bit of the scum from the hot milk to go into Aunt Manie's cup. The rite never deviated.
Such coffee. It was bought in quantities in the green bean and roasted in the oven and ground in a coffee mill every morning before breakfast.
Grandmother taught me to knit and I knit my own stockings. I liked to do it when I was designing bright stripes for the legs but how I hated the monotony of the plain knitting. Grandmother lost patience and said, "Now hurry and finish that pair of stockings and never knit another stitch as long as you live."
I received this with great joy and could I have foreseen the endless knitting I have done in later years, I could not have believed it possible.
Once, I do not know how, Grandmother got some wool and she brought down a spinning wheel and spun it into yarn.
I remember Grandmother dipping candles, too, though we did not use them very often, but she had some tin candle molds in which we hung wicks which we twisted from cotton. I do not remember if the hot tallow was poured into the molds but I rather think the frame with the wicks was dipped in the hot tallow until they were the right size.
One task each year was making soap. All year, grease was saved and in the spring, a leach was filled with wood ashes. Water was poured on the ashes. This dripped through and the result was lye. When sufficient lye had run through, the big soap kettle was put over a fire in the yard and the soap grease and lye were boiled. It was always a lovely spring day and the soap was made in the back yard which ran up the hill and made a pasture for the cow, and the kettle was boiled at the place where an underground stream boiled up in a little spring. It was always fun to stir the contents of the kettle with a long wooden paddle. We would try it in a saucer just as we did jelly and it was such a pretty color, just like maple syrup. When it was just the right consistency, it was taken off the fire.
The finished product was put in a barrel in the cellar. There were always two barrels as Grandmother said it was not good to use until it had aged a year or, anyway, until the old barrel was used up. A bowl of the soap was on the sink for washing dishes and it was used for laundry. There was a bowl, too, out on the porch where everyone washed their hands. I think it probable that Aunt Manie had some toilet soap but the homemade soap served most purposes.
Grandfather's house was white clapboards, rambling over a lot of ground. At the left was the vegetable garden in which he took great pride. At the left, the ... lot, climbing up the hill to the land of Rastus Wright, was the yard where we made the soap and where the cow lived which gave us so much milk and cream and sometimes a little butter. Grandfather milked the cow.
Back of the house was a big red barn, and upstairs, at one end, was Fred's shop. Fred had a good deal of mechanical talent and was a very good carpenter. He loved to play with clocks and watches and mended all the timepieces in the neighborhood.
Grandfather was always well dressed and I remember Grandmother saying that he had never worn a colored shirt since she married him. This was unusual in those days when all the men wore blue gingham shirts unless dressed up.
Grandfather was tall and straight with black hair, lightly streaked with gray and a black beard. His upper lip was shaven. In those days, a smooth face was unusual. The young men wore mustaches and then later, full beards.
Grandfather loved to have his hair combed and it made him as happy as a cat being stroked. As soon as dinner was over, he would say, "Woman, get the comb." Grandmother would comb his hair and pick out the gray ones- not as much I think from vanity as from the pleasure it gave him. I used to want to comb his hair but no one could do it as well as Grandmother.
That first summer at Grandfather's I taught school. I was sixteen, small for my age and most immature. I taught on Elm Flat, two miles from Depauville, and was paid $2.50 a week. I was supposed to board around but most of the time, I had only one pupil and nearly every night, I walked home to the village.
In the district was a German family. The old mother had learned no English and my German was of the slightest but I had studied it a little and it was pathetic to see how happy the few words I could speak made her, and for years, I heard how pleased she was because Liddy Fox could talk to her.
I had a painful experience that summer. I was boarding that week with a German family. We sat together for a little while after supper before bed time, and I was too bashful to leave the rest to visit the toilet. I was put in the parlor bedroom and, alas, there was no convenience. I tried to get out the front door but that had probably not been opened in months. The bedroom window was over a cellar door which was open and beside it was a big table piled high with milk pans and milk pails. But needs must, so I climbed out of the window, in imminent danger of breaking my neck, and no sooner was I out than someone came out of the kitchen door. I cowered under the table until they went back, then attended to my affairs and climbed back in, all in one piece.
That summer, Aunt Nellie's second child was born and Grandmother went out to Omar to attend her. Genevieve had been a difficult child and Grandmother said that she hoped the next baby would make up for it. And she got her wish. Eula Hope was an answer to Grandmother's prayer and had the sweetness of dear Aunt Nellie.
Uncle Frank married sweet Rose Walrath that summer. Frank was a good friend to me and I loved dear Rose at first sight. She was a wonderful musician though she had very few advantages, but, never have I heard music which pleased me more than her piano playing. Mrs. Webster, a neighbor, on hearing a famous piano player, said, "Fingers like Mrs. Fox." It is too bad that Rose did not cultivate that talent when she was left a widow with two small children and small means.
I earned thirty dollars that summer, teaching school, and Grandfather took me to Watertown to spend my wealth. I bought a double shawl, brown and gray, so soft and warm, of which I was inordinately proud. It was burned years later in a fire at Uncle Byron's.
When my school closed, Grandfather took me out to Uncle Will Mantle's home. Uncle Will had sold the old Mantle Place on The Creek and had a beautiful home on the road between Watertown and Adams. Orchard Dale was lovely- a big stone house with buildings which backed up to the hill. There was a wonderful spring on the place and the water was brought down to the house. Against the hill was the dairy with water flowing always around the big pans, and water was carried on through the woodshed into the kitchen. I never before had seen a sink with running water and an outlet, and that seemed the last word in conveniences.
There was another big family. Uncle Will and Aunt Pamele, Gertie had married Tilly Adams who died suddenly leaving her with Jennie and Korleen and Tilly Jr., yet unborn. They had come home to Orchard Dale. Jeanette was a little older than her aunt, Vannie Clare. Korleen was a dainty little girl with copper colored hair and Tilly was a little boy. Then there were Carrie, Will and Clover, a few months younger than I. These, with Gertie's three made a long, long table and Sundays, Burnie and his family usually came out from Town. Byron had made an unhappy marriage and had been divorced-an almost unprecedented thing in those days. He had gone out to California, where he married Helen.
Burnie was a handsome chap with a beautiful blonde mustache. He adored his wife, Sue Lawrence, and his baby son, Roy, afterwards the dramatic critic, Burns Mantle. I remember how handsome and proud Burnie looked when his eyes caressed Sue and Roy and he said, "Those are all the Gods I worship." Later there was a little daughter, Daisy, and Burnie died. Sue took Roy and went west and Aunt Pamele kept little Dumpling Daisie. She was a pet and they all adored her. One day, she was down in the flower garden when Clover spied her. Feeling guilty, Daisy said, "Grandma knows it." Grandma did not know it but it was a good alibi. Orchard Dale was well named. I am sure every variety of apple ever grown in New York State was in Uncle Will's orchard. There were wonderful pears and Uncle Will always hoped to grow peaches but it was too cold.
Up the hill was the cow barn. And the cows! All jerseys. And what cream came from the big pans in the dairy. We would skim a pan when we had popcorn or anything which could be eaten with cream.
The house fronted to the west where we saw the sun go down in Lake Ontario, and flowing into the Lake, like a silver thread, we could see the Black River. It was ten miles to Lake Ontario and there, at Sackett's Harbor stood an immense building which housed a big ship built during the War of 1812, and which was never completed because the war ended and the ship was too big to go down the St. Lawrence to the sea. It was demolished many years ago but then was an important landmark. At Sackett's, too, were the Army Barracks, but in those days of peace, they were very quiet.
Across the meadows ran the Watertown & Ogdensburg Railroad, by which our part of the country was connected with the outside world.
The month I spent at Uncle Will's was one of the jolliest of my life. Clover was a kindred soul and what fun we had. We did all sorts of work so we could get a horse to drive. We spread hay. We picked up potatoes and husked corn-but that must have been a later visit.
Against the dairy and wood shed was a treadmill.
They churned twice a week, sometimes with Prince, a large dog, and sometimes with a sheep to tread the mill.
Prince was an important member of the family. He was of fine breed and one day when the girls were driving, they came upon him, very tired. They thought he must have strayed away from a hunting party in the Big Woods. At any rate, he attached himself to them and followed them home, and Clover opined he was a fairy prince and so he was named Prince. He was very intelligent and knew when churning day came and sometimes would run away before daybreak.
The sheep would sometimes jump off the treadmill and the women could not get him back so if the men were in the field, Clover and I would mount the treadmill and tread until the butter came.
When we had earned the use of a horse, as many as could pile into the carriage set out the country for to see. I remember once when the horse turned straight around in the road and nothing would make him go on. So, perforce, we had to go back and take another road. They had forgotten to warn us that this horse always balked at that particular spot.
There was never a dull moment.
Aunt Pamele was a perfect housekeeper and never have I seen a bed as perfectly made as was hers. Like every other in those days it was a feather bed but it was as straight and square as any beauty rest mattress and the spread was snowy and the pillow shams stiff with starch and white as snow. I never saw it unmade.
Uncle Will worked very hard, but at evening, he always took a bath in a wash tub, and put on clean clothes, -the only man I had ever seen so immaculate. Aunt Pamele had a sharp tongue and nagged Uncle Will pretty thoroughly, but I do not think he minded much. They were an argumentative family and each stood up for his opinion. I remember once a heated discussion as to whether birds were carnivorous, Will insisting that they were insectivore. Grandfather Fox liked to argue beyond anything but seldom would anyone brave his sharp tongue by disagreeing with him.
Grandfather Mantle spent his last days with Uncle Will and must have been a sore trial to Aunt Pamele. With her immaculateness, it must have gone pretty hard when Grandfather, coming into the kitchen and seeing a pot merrily boiling with the day's dinner, stirred the contents with his cane. Grandfather Mantle was a little "near" and the story was that after borrowing Uncle Will's buggy during the temporary repair of his own, he got a new one and then said he "would neither borrow nor lend." He had been a soldier in the War of 1812 and I fear was always a little difficult. He was well along in the eighties when he died and Grandmother nearly as old. We are a long lived race on both sides except for the diseases of infancy and the hazards of childbearing. The later generation has much less stamina.
Uncle Will, loved to quote poetry. Burns was his special love and one of his boys was Robert Burns and another Byron Gordon. He quoted and sang the songs of his beloved bard and when I visited Scotland, and saw Burns' birthplace, and, best of all, heard a blind peddler on the banks of the Dee, play and sing "Ye Banks and Braes," I felt close to dear Uncle Will, asleep these many years.
Clover and I wrote a play and Will, who was something of a skeptic, opined that it was not our composition. I remember that the comedy relief was a very deaf old woman who always misunderstood and whose answers were always far afield of the questions posed.
Clover and I found an old love letter written by Uncle Will to Aunt Pamele and which began, "Dear and Much Respected Miss." We quoted it in season and out and must have made ourselves generally obnoxious.
That year, I had theatric aspirations though I had never seen a real theater. In a play given at Depauville, I was the ingenue and as I sat paring apples, I leaned back and fell asleep and one of my beaux came in and kissed me.
A friend said to Aunt Manie, "I said, for mercy's sake, that child has gone to sleep." My straight hair was always a great trial to me and dear Aunt Manie tried to put in some curl for my beautification. Grandfather liked straight smooth hair and when I was ready for display, promptly punctured the balloon of any vanity I might have. He said, "Well, Liddy, you are pretty black but I don't think anyone would think you are a nigger if you didn't have that wool on your head." Much of Clover's and my correspondence was in verse. With any excuse or with none, we would burst into rhyme. I remember once when I closed my screed with the excuse that my paper had run low, she replied:
"When mounted on Pegasus, ready to caper,
I pray you, don't stop for the want of more paper:
Let me know when you next feel a fit coming on;
I'll be there with a quire, with a ream, with a ton."
When the Mantles moved to Orchard Dale, the coming of a family of young people was an event. There was a discussion among the neighbors as to the name of the youngest. There had been a singing school and one man said, "I know what her name is. It is Sofranny. The teacher said, 'Sing Sofranny' and she sang it every time.
The hospitality at Orchard Dale was wonderful and there was no limit as to where it would stretch. I remember once when I was up from Washington, and Aunt Stears had come East on a visit. The big house was overflowing and so all of us girls decided to sleep in the barn, on the new hay. There was Gertrude with Jeanette and Korleen, Carrie Ayers who had come up from Watertown, Vannie, Clover and Yours Truly.
I could always curl up like a dormouse and make myself a nest and when Gertrude or some of the rest would say, I can't get fixed," I would say, "I have a lovely place," and then the sufferer would say, "Oh change with me," and when she took my place, she would say that it was no better than hers.
Of course the lantern had to be extinguished as soon as we got settled and I well remember the shriek of someone when something cold touched her hand. She was sure it was a snake but we finally found out that it was Prince, the family dog, who had followed us.
Back to Grandfather's and the village school. I did not learn much as I was sure that I knew as much as the teacher-more, in fact, as I often found him in glaring errors. My education had been and always was fragmentary. I hardly ever went to school a full term
and I never graduated in anything. I had read everything which came within reach ever since my introduction to print in the "Adventures of Hercules."
After I had taught a few terms, the School Superintendent said, "You ought to have a first grade certificate but I cannot give it to you because of your arithmetic." So I went after arithmetic, hammer and
|Pages 50 - 59||tongs. I ciphered straight through the book
and mastered square and cube roots. I got the certificate but it is safe
to say that I forgot most of it as soon as I had no further use for it.
Rose and Frank went to Watertown to live and once when I visited them, Rose took me to hear my first Opera. It was Gilbert and Sullivan's "Iolanthe," and though given by home talent, I have never seen an opera which pleased me more. The Lord Chancellor was a joy and his argument with himself that he could get his own consent to his marriage to his ward, Iolanthe, was a masterpiece.
Said he: "I've grammar and spelling for two and blood and position for twenty."
And Iolanthe replied: "I'm very much pained to refuse, but I'll stick to my pipes and my tabors. I can spell all the words that I use, and my grammar's as good as my neighbors."
Iolanthe was in love with Strephon, a shepherd lad his father a mortal and his mother a fairy. He danced divinely and being encored again and again, came limping out and, bowing low, said, "You forget my legs are mortal."
He was supposed to be a fairy to the waist.
Uncle Frank sang very well and I loved to hear him sing to Rose's accompaniment.
The first play I saw was also by home talent but it seems to me that it was very well done. It was "The American Cousin" and was made thrilling by the information that it was being played when Lincoln was shot.
The character of Dundreary stands out in my mind. He was always exclaiming painfully, "There You've thpoilt it!" His vis a vis would ask, "Spoilt what?" and Dundreary would reply, "The motht magnifithent theeneth." The cream of it all was at the end when, each actor having made a little curtain speech, someone said, "Lord Dundreary has a word to say" and there was a sneeze which almost took off the roof.
Grandfather hated to hear either and neither pronounced with the long i and I could not possibly use that Pronunciation today. I would feel that it was treason to him.
One of Grandfather's sayings was: "Don't ever fail to swap your ignorance for knowledge. It's the best trade you can make."
Grandfather was Justice of the Peace and I always enjoyed the trials which took place in the living room. One night, a poor, bedraggled man was brought in, charged with arson. A barn had been burned and one piece of evidence was the man's boot prints in a nearby swamp. The poor man protested his innocence and said again and again: "They've got the wrong man." Explaining the footprints, he said he had been "Cowslopping" all through the swamp. In the early spring, starved for green stuff, one of the first foods for country people was cowslip greens. These he was seeking. I think the man was sent to prison. The man whose barn had been burned was his creditor and had pushed him for payment and he had threatened reprisal.
Grandfather was the monied man of the section and I remember how he would shuffle the sheaf of notes that represented the loans he had made, and I liked to watch his calculation of interest due. But I did not like it well enough to do anything myself in the Mathematical line. If Grandfather had taken a little Pains with me in that direction, I would probably have gotten that first grade certificate long before I did. In one case, a debtor defaulted for quite a sum and when Grandfather went to see about it, he came back with several pumpkins as sole payment. Grandmother made pies and we laughingly figured the cost of each piece.
Our mail came to Chaumont from Watertown on a little spur line which ran to Cape Vincent. The mail was brought once a day by a stage coach and I remember once when there had been a bad storm, it was more than a week that we were without mail. In winter there was usually what they called a "Black River Thaw" which meant a storm which paralyzed travel. The mail was brought by stagecoach long after I had gone to Washington and once when I came home and there was no one to meet me, I rode up with the mail and the stage driver assured me that he had always said I would amount to something.
Grandfather's house was heated by stoves. The coal fire in the kitchen did not go out all winter and the tank at the back furnished hot water for all uses. In the kitchen sink were two pumps, one for cistern and one for well water. Every house had a big cistern and rain water from the eaves served the year round for laundry, baths and the house work, and the water from the well served for cooking and other uses.
I washed the dishes and I remember once when I burst into poetry;
"Tell me, ye wild sea waves, Against my pathway swashing Is there no place on earth
Where dishes need no washing? No lone, sequestered spot, No hollow in the ground,
Where people use no forks,
And dish pans are not found?
The wild waves spattered in my face And sadly answered, 'Nary place'.
And I had to scour the knives. That was the most unpleasant task. Then everyone used steel knives and the good housekeeper had them scoured after breakfast and dinner. It was not usually necessary after supper and those suppers, I must sing their praise. There was usually creamed potatoes, perhaps cold meat, bread or hot biscuits, with butter, perhaps cottage cheese yellow with cream and sometimes seasoned with sage. There was maple syrup, honey or preserves to eat with the biscuits and cake and cookies for dessert. And such cakes. One favorite was whipped cream cake. It was what they called "a plain cake" baked in a shallow pan, and covered inches high with whipped cream. I remember once when I hurriedly tried to make such a cake for unexpected company and how I piled on the cream, only to have it dissolve and how chagrined I was when I realized that my cake was still warm enough to melt the cream.
But back to the stoves. In the living room was a big base burner coal stove with isinglass windows which showed the lovely fire. Grandfather never let anyone else touch that fire and I am sure, thoroughly enjoyed lying on the floor on his back the while he picked out the clinkers. This fire warmed the living room, the big bedroom occupied by Grandfather and Grandmother, the big bedroom belonging to Aunt Manie and me and the stove pipe warmed Fred's room upstairs. In case of company, a wood fire was made in the parlor and the parlor bedroom, across the hall. It was a sprawling old house, covering a lot of ground and in winter, the other rooms were rarely used.
The house was lighted by kerosene lamps and I well remember the long row of them on the mantle, beside the clock. It was my duty to wash the chimneys and trim and fill the lamps every morning. There was one which had no chimney, a big brass lamp called the Hitchcock after the inventor, I think a Watertown man. It was wound up with a key like the clock and represented quite an advance in lighting and those who possessed one were very proud of it. This lamp sat on Grandfather's desk with a few law books and his account books and private papers.
Before the other window stood Grandmother's plants. Grandmother had a green thumb and everything she touched grew. There was a big oleander in a tub which was sometimes covered with lovely pink blossoms. There were two tubs holding cactus plants. One was given her, a little scrap, with the promise, "It will have a blossom big as the full of a tea cup." And it did and would be covered with such gorgeous red blooms. She had many geraniums and always one rose geranium whose perfume is sweet beyond description. And such lovely red and pink ones, and an especial prize, "A Lady Washington," or pelargonium, with its beautiful pink blooms. I saw bushes of this in Malta, many years later, and the sight took me back to Grandmother's window. And she always had a pot of lemon verbena such a heavenly perfume.
I loved to have Grandmother tell me stories about the Villagers and have often thought of what Margaret Deland would have made of those tales.
One story was of a lady whose sweet placid face and immaculate white silk shawl attracted me. Years before, she had disappeared from the Village and had come back with an infant son. She came back as Mrs. but no one ever knew anything of Mr. or of the intervening time of her absence. I am glad to say that the son grew up to be a joy to her. He was successful in business, married a nice girl, had a fine family and made a happy home for his mother.
Another piece of history which Grandmother related was of the Doctor. The family had been physicians for generations. There was usually the Old Doctor and the Young Doctor, one or more of the sons following in the traditional footsteps. I understand that the tradition still continues and that down the generations, there are more doctors, male and female.
At that time, the Old Doctor had a curious family. There was his mother, the widow of the Old Doctor who preceded him, and who seemed to me as old as Methuselah, his wife, and her sister, an old maid with snapping black eyes. Mrs. Doctor was a very homely woman but the sister showed traces of having been good looking. The young Doctor sons had gone to practice in other fields and there was a younger son at home, a handsome scapegrace, the adored of his aunt.
The story, as Grandmother told it, was that the Doctor had been engaged to the older sister but when her father discovered that the younger sister was, in the vernacular of the day, "in trouble," he made the Doctor marry her. The Doctor still had a pretty taste for the ladies and there was much gossip about his association with the pretty wife of a rather inefficient Man.
I said the scapegrace son was the adored of his aunt. He was a general favorite but he was very wild. He went from bad to worse and years later, I heard that he had gotten in a stall with a horse, during one of his drunken sprees, and had his nose bitten off.
But I want to tell you more of the living room at Grandfather's. There was the dining table which when not in use was covered with a red cloth but which was capable of stretching to any possible length to accommodate the frequent guests.
Behind Grandfather's place at the table hung a picture of the Jackson equestrian statue. The sculptor, Clark Mills, was sort of kin, having been partly raised by one of Grandfather's sisters. This picture had been given Grandfather by Clark Mills and when I came to Washington and saw the original in Lafayette Park, it seemed like an old friend.
Lafayette Park at that time was enclosed by a high fence, kept there in deference to the wishes of Corcoran, the richest and most influential citizen of Washington.
Cousin Irving knew Clark Mills well and told me of Mills' relating to him the difficulty of getting the horse to pose for the statue, and the great difficulty of getting the exact balance required.
Many years later, when I bought my home at Washington Circle, it was a source of much pride and pleasure that my windows looked out on the statue of Washington, also made by Clark Mills. As years went on, the statue suffered from the elements and it was decided that it must be taken away to be repaired. I sat on my porch with my eyes glued to the statue to watch its removal but, alas, the lunch bell took me to the dining room and in my absence, down had come the statue and off came the horse's head. I am glad to relate that it came back all repaired and is an ever present joy as I see it from my windows.
Grandfather had a beautiful chestnut horse, Charlie, who capered proudly, but when Grandfather was attacked by one of the terrible sick headaches which plagued him, Charlie always pulled to the side of the road and never moved until his master had recovered. No one but Grandfather was ever allowed to touch Charlie. I thought Charlie too tame a name for the beautiful horse and suggested Ajax, but my suggestion received no favor.
In those days, and long after, sick headaches were the commonest affliction. Everyone had them, as a matter of course, and no one ever seemed to think there was anything to do about it. Fortunately, in these days of more enlightened diets, that trouble is greatly decreased.
Grandfather was an agnostic and the church people, holding a revival meeting, prayed that he might be snatched as a brand from the burning. Some of the good women paid him a visit to see if their prayers had been effectual. They asked him if he had had any change of heart. Grandfather said that he had - that shortly before, he had been at a party and when he got home, found he had pocketed a napkin.
Grandfather had not too high an opinion of women and would quote, anent someone under discussion, "Does she look with boldness on the faces of men?"
Grandfather had many stories of the neighbors. One was of a time in winter when fresh meat was a great luxury. Sant Plumb was eating dinner with a neighbor who had killed a sheep. Sant had been reaching over to the platter with a bit of bread on his fork, to sop it in the fresh gravy. His host, losing patience, told him to keep out of the platter. "Well," said Sant, "By cracky, I'm going to stop this," and suited the action to the word.
Grandfather, also told the story of someone who, apologizing, said, "Fingers were made before forks," and the response, "Well, yours wa'nt, and you keep them out of that dish."
Another story was of a man who liked to have the Bible read to him. One day, his son, having opened the book at a chapter of begats read with much difficulty:
"Two sons did Milcah boar.
"No, no, that couldn't 'a been. "Two sons did Mileah bear. "That might 'a been. That might 'a been."
Grandfather was minus several fingers on his right hand. The story was that his sister Phila was chopping some meat and he, a little chap, reached into the bowl for a tidbit and the knife came down, severing the fingers. His writing, however, was very good and plain-better than that of any of his children, and I well remember how expertly he carved at table.
There were two churches in the village, Methodist and Baptist. The Methodist incumbent when I was at Grandfather's, was Elder Danforth, a tall, rawboned man with a red beard. I remember how indignant Aunt Manie was when he preached the funeral sermon of Mrs. Walrath, the mother of Rose Fox. He said, "She was industrious, equinomical and religious." And that was his eulogy of a good wife, and a good mother who had given two sons to the Union during the Civil War.
A character who was much quoted was Steve, the Village Idiot. He was religious in spots and liked to go to prayer meeting and give testimony and pray. One story was:
"God bless Ca'line Lester," (a sister).
"God bless Mary Wilson," (another sister).
"God bless Mis "Browning," (his mother),
"God bless Mr. Browning," (his father), then realizing the enormity of the task, "Oh hell, He can't."
In giving his opinion on any subject, he would qualify it by, "That's the way it looks from the road."
Poor Steve! All his near relatives died and as his maintenance had been guaranteed, when the home farm was rented, poor Steve was, "The man who went with the place."
There was an older girl whom I much admired. She had a lovely voice and I remember her singing "Kathleen Mavourneen" at some entertainment, and she wore white kid gloves! Her mother was a dressmaker and she made me the first really nice dress I ever had. Grandfather got me a lovely dark green basket cloth and it was made with a train! I fondly looked at the fashion plate from which it was copied and wished I might look as elegant as the figure in the picture with a lovely rose at her belt.
The young lady had a devoted beau and everyone was much surprised to hear that he was married, and to someone else. Everyone wondered, but I never heard the why of it.
One of the neighbors in the village whom I have always regretted never knowing was Mrs. Spencer. She must have been a saint. She brought up a little colored girl, along with her own children. I never knew what became of Tempy, but I knew people who had been in school with her. Mrs. Spencer was good to everyone and there was a poor old man with a cancer who wandered about with no one to care for him and he would periodically visit her and she would wash his clothes and put clean bandages on the hideous cancer
I used to love to visit Aunt Nellie at Omar. The Lees were near the St. Lawrence River and one feature of a visit there was usually a day of fishing at the River.
Once when I was there, a relative came with his bride. We drove down to Fisher's Landing and set out in little boats. The bride had doffed the pretty silver gray dress but she still wore her coral jewelry, and her auburn hair was elaborately dressed. I was in the boat with the newlyweds. The bride was not a good sailor and soon became actively sick. She took off the coral jewelry and said: "Put that in your pocket,
|Pages 60 - 79||Will." She moaned a little and, ruffling
her hair, took off a puff. Then some more cries. Then off came a curl,
then more puffs, and always, "Will, put that in your pocket."
And soon the lovely complexion was badly streaked, which showed, awful
thought, that she had on paint! And she was as different as possible from
the lovely vision that set out to fish.
Oh, those lovely days on the River. We would fish all morning, then land on an island, make a fire and cook the fish. Aunt Nellie would have potatoes ready to cook and green corn or some vegetables in season and if it were berry time, a can prepared ready to eat, and with the blue sky above and the beautiful river and the appetites we had acquired, those meals were truly memorable.
Grandfather decided that I ought to have better school advantages than Depauville offered, so I was sent back to Iowa. I had some pretty clothes and was glad to show myself after years when I was ashamed of my shabbiness. But things at home were no better and so I only stayed in school a little while and then went to teaching.
It was a country school and I went out in the stage coach which went to Tipton, then I walked a mile or two through the woods to my school. I boarded not far from the schoolhouse and I had quite a large class. One morning, I woke up sick. I went to school where the children tended me all day. I was burning with fever and drank constantly from the community tin cup, for I was consumed with thirst.
In the afternoon, with the help of the youngsters, I dragged over through the woods to the place where I could take the hack for home. When I got home, the doctor said I had either scarlet fever or diphtheria. I was pretty sick and when I got better, my skin peeled off in rags. But, strange to say, neither the children at home nor any of my pupils caught the disease though everyone had hung about me and we had all drunk from the same cup.
By this time, Uncle Sheldon and Aunt Laura had died and Frank, Jennie and Albert had married. Dollie and Mary had moved to Tipton. Jennie had married Marsh Parsons and had a bird's nest of a home, perfectly immaculate, and the wonderful way in which she had taught her baby son proper toilet habits, was the admiration of everyone. Afterwards, she had a little daughter and her tragic death seemed the more terrible when we thought of Jennie, the immaculate. That was still the day of outdoor privies and Jennie's baby girl, two years old, fell head first into the cesspool. Poor Jennie lost her mind.
While we lived in Wilton, Father had a variety of occupations, each less successful then the preceding. First he had a lumber yard, then a livery stable and at one time, he went around the country gathering up wagon loads of dead hogs during an epidemic of hog cholera. He carted them somewhere, to make soap, I presume.
A year or two after my return to Iowa, Grandfather died of pneumonia and within ten days Grandmother died. Poor Grandmother was a wonderful nurse and while ill, said, "I know if it were someone else, I could help them. I would make a pancake to put over the lungs."
Father went back to New York to help settle the estate, taking brother Jim with him. On their way home, the little boy went out on the platform of the car and was thrown off. This was near Chicago. Jim was not hurt and finally got back safe home with father.
Grandfather left a large estate and part of Father's share was the Elm Flat Farm. Elm Flat was the scene of my first school teaching. It was a beautiful spot and on our land was the loveliest elm tree I ever saw.
It was a matter of pride in the Fox family that Grandfather's large estate was settled without a will and without a lawyer. Uncle Charlie claimed that the children of his mother were entitled to a larger share than the others and everyone agreed to give him the larger share. But Aunt Nellie, Frank and Fred would not take more and my father, Aunt Mary and Uncle Byron were content to give Charlie what he wanted. Alas, the harmony did not continue and in the years to come, there was little of it and I am sorry to say that not one of Grandfather's children was able to increase or to keep the very liberal patrimony which came to them from their father.
The return of the family was quite characteristic of' Father. He bought third class tickets for the lot of us and as there were no third class cars, we made the three days' journey in smoking cars, seven of us. Father, mother, Jim, Fred, Florence, Lucy aged three, and myself. We carried provisions for us all and of course we had to use the men's toilets as a woman in a smoking car was unthinkable. I had no money. I had taught two terms but wages were small and every cent had been spent. I had had two front teeth extracted and a plate made. My poor teeth had never had any care and so I lost these teeth before I was eighteen. There were only two teeth on a plate and nothing to hold them in place so the result was that I was always breaking it.
The Elm Flat Farm was a good one and the beautiful elm gave it distinction. It was a rambling old house and I planted a wild grape on one side and woodbine over the front porch. They grew fast and made it quite pretty but Father tore them up and the place grew shabbier and shabbier. He soon began to mortgage it and in a few years everything was gone.
Van was born after we moved to Elm Flat. I do not know how it came about that Mother Sarah consented that she be named for her predecessor but I remember that she said that she should never be called Levantia, but when she was grown, she called herself Levantia.
Van was a dear little girl, quaint and imaginative. I remember how she used to play with the Dell Family in a fence corner. Said Dell family consisted of green apples on sticks. She would carry on long conversations, changing her voice for Mr. and Mrs. Dell and Sinner, who was a bad boy, and you would think there were a number of people with her. She made her own playthings and I remember once when the whole family had been to the county fair, she had begged for a balloon. It probably cost ten cents, but, of course, Father would not throw away money like that and all the way home, the little voice was plaintively saying,
"I never had a 'Loon and I never saw a 'Loon."
Vannie was shy and once when I was home from Washington, she had a habit of saying, "I don't know," to avoid answering questions. I talked to her about it and impressed upon her that she must answer.
One day Mother and I had gone somewhere when Uncle Byron called and asked for me. Van said, "She isn't here."
"Where is she?" asked Uncle Byron.
She really did not know where we were but having been told not to say she did not know, she replied, "Its a secret."
And how Uncle Byron teased me about my mysterious disappearance.
Dear Uncle Byron. He was always so good to me and his house my place of refuge during those sad years when I was a young girl. Mother Sarah had neither understanding nor affection for me and embarrassed me continually.
I flush with shame now when I remember a Fourth of July when I had made myself a pretty dress and gone to the celebration with a young man whom I thought very nice. I was teaching near Omar and had met him there.
A party of us were in an upstairs room of the hotel in Clayton, watching the procession and having great fun. At the tail end of it came a ramshackle old buggy in which was my father, wearing an old fur coat, mother and several small children on the seat with him and hanging out of the back was Fred. They made an appearance as grotesque as any clowns in parade. There was a gasp and then someone asked, "Do you know who that is?" and I answered, "Yes, it is my father."
When I went to Uncle Byron's, there was companionship and affection. I used to say that I would never marry until I found someone as nice as Uncle Byron and as the years passed, Uncle Byron would teasingly say, "Now you see what comes of setting your aim too high."
Aunt Sarah, witty and sharp tongued, and the most capable housekeeper I ever knew, was such a contrast to the shiftless housekeeping at home. One Christmas, at a tree at the church there was a little package for me. It was a pretty embroidered handkerchief from Aunt Sarah. She said, "I knew they would call out Freddy Fox and Florence Fox and Lucy Fox, and I was determined that there should be something for Liddy Fox."
I kept the remains of the handkerchief for many years and I have never had a gift which touched me more deeply.
Then was the fashion of crazy quilts with scraps of silk and velvet pieced together without any pattern and the seams embroidered. Aunt Sarah, May, Grace and I each made one and great was the struggle to collect pieces and we always played fair and divided. A good many years later, Aunt Sarah sent me her quilt. I was much touched and valued it highly as it brought back so many happy hours. It was stolen from me and I have grieved much less over the loss of many things of much greater intrinsic value.
May was so pretty and had her mother's house-wifeliness. She used to tell me all about her love affairs. I remember one day when I went up there and she was furiously angry. I was teaching at the village then. May had expected Will Howk to take her to singing school the night before, and he had not come.
I had gone to the singing school and Will Howk had told me that he had gone after May and had found the gate locked. He was very angry and said:
If Byron Fox does not want me to go with his daughter, why doesn't he come out man to man (Will was all of fifteen), and tell me so?"
I assured him that Uncle Byron had nothing to do with it.
After May had told her grievance, Will Fox took me aside and in strictest confidence, told me how he had revenged himself on May and Governor Howk. He was mad at May because when she wanted him to take her somewhere, she would say:
"Oh Ma, let Willie go. Everyone thinks he is so cute." But when some one else was taking her, she would say:
"That little runt. Who wants him around?"
So, in revenge, he had locked the gate and Will could not get in.
Grace was not yet much interested in boys.
Harry was the baby-ten years younger than Grace, and petted and spoiled and disciplined by the older ones. He would fly into a rage and say:
"All wight. I will go off in the black woods and the dogs eaty up and the bears and the snakes!" and then he would burst into a howl at the dark picture.
I would tell him everything I could think of to get him out of these moods. Just then the Brooklyn Bridge had been completed and was much talked about. I told him about the bridge and he asked:
"Pot for a bidge? Fot is a bridge?" and I would explain and expound.
They had a hard time teaching him proper toilet habits. His mother put him in drawers, taking off his diapers, and aroused his pride in them. He did pretty well for a time but when he made a slip and was scolded, he said:
"Hen done it."
This was greeted with such shouts of laughter that soon the same thing happened again and the same excuse was given. Something had to be done and so his mother told him that if he let the hen do it again, she would punish him. And that worked.
When Uncle Byron went to the Village in the evening, we would always wait to hear the news. One night he came home and exploded a bomb shell.
"Mollie Graves had a baby last night and was married."
Mollie Graves was very prudish and if anyone made a remark the least bit off color, she would remonstrate or register disapproval. She had been in bad health for some time and all the old ladies had prescribed for poor Mollie. The preceding Saturday night, she had been at Lodge Meeting.
The Good Templars Lodge meeting was the social event of the week, and we came from far and near to attend and it was a calamity to miss it. This particular Saturday, Mollie had been there and had sat on the platform with the officers and the nicest boy in town had "seen her home."
The story was that she had denied her pregnancy to the last, being terribly hurt at the questions asked her, and after the baby was born, had said, "Take it away. 'Taint mine."
That was too much for Aunt Sarah who snapped, I'd have put it back and made her have it over again."
A neighbor who was a Justice of the Peace, went out in pursuit of John Brown. When found, he said that he had asked her if she was pregnant and begged her to marry him but she had denied the fact and refused the offer.
I loved to visit Frank and Rose in Watertown. Once they went to a party and I stayed with the children and asked Clover to stay with me. Winn slept in a crib at the foot of the bed and Hattie with Clover and me. In the night, Winn waked and called:
"Want a hampee." (A handkerchief).
I found him a handkerchief. "Now go to sleep."
"Want a d'ink of watee."
I got him a drink of water. "Now go to sleep."
"What?" rather crossly.
"Want to Pee Pee."
I attended to him, and then, emphatically: "Now go to sleep."
With some irritation, "What?"
"Lost my hampee."
With much vigor, "Now be quiet and go to sleep."
And silence settled on the house.
Uncle Frank got a dog for the children. He was a beautiful big dog, brown and white, and adored the children and they tumbled over him and took every possible liberty with him, all of which he took with the utmost good nature. I remember a photograph with Winn and Hattie climbing over him. They were beautiful children and Hattie had lovely golden curls. I remember that she had a terrible illness and when she recovered, the golden hair was a tangled mess. Everyone thought the little head would have to be shaved but Rose worked on it for days, picking it out a hair at a time, and it was saved.
I always had such good times when I visited Uncle James and Aunt Nellie Lee, and went often, especially when I taught school nearby. Dora Hanna worked for Aunt Nellie and everyone liked her very much. Poor Dora! She had tuberculosis later and went home to die.
Once when Uncle James and Aunt Nellie had gone away on a little visit, I stayed with Dora and the children. It was winter and over the store which was in the same yard, we had some sort of rehearsal and I had asked the participants over to the house for ice cream. It was my great joy to make ice cream. There were always plenty of pans with thick cream and I would sweeten and flavor and stir in dry snow, preferably, that newly fallen, then I would set it out in a snow bank to harden, the temperature being usually way below zero.
The party had arrived and Dora and I went out to get the cream. We brought in the pan and there was just a spoonful in it. I looked at Dora and Dora looked at me. And in a jiffy, we had skimmed more cream and mixed up another lot. The assembled company would not believe that I had just made it and it was years before I learned what became of the cream.
Delly Lee lived with his brother and worked in the store, and he and another clerk had stolen and eaten the cream, the while we were emoting upstairs.
I do not know whether it was on this visit or another but one night there was the most wonderful Northern Lights that I ever saw. They ran from horizon to horizon centering at the zenith and changing colors momentarily, rose and green and gold. I have never seen anything as lovely except an afterglow in Manila. The afterglow would come along after the sun was down and when it was almost dark. This night, the light came from all directions and grew and focused at the zenith till it made me think of the heart of a watermelon.
I saw another wonderful afterglow from Fort Santiago, ten miles or so from Manila. We had climbed a little hill through paths made in a forest of lantana as tall as our heads. It grew dark and we thought we would have no display but it came and was glorious. When I saw this lantana, I thought of the tiny plants I had nourished in the States.
I remember once when I was teaching on Black Creek. Most of the people were Irish Catholics. They became very good friends and I enjoyed them much.
|Pages 70 - 80||There was a dance one night, just before the
beginning of Lent. I was in one of the farm houses and toward the end
two women, who seemed very old to me, danced an Irish jig. They footed
it merrily and I have never seen dancing that I enjoyed more. It was evidently
portraying a story and was probably meant to be danced by a couple with
the swain beseeching and the maid retreating. It was charming and I enjoyed
it thoroughly and then it was midnight and Lent began.
I think it was in this school district that there was a woman who, with her children, had been sold by her husband to the man with whom she lived. I believe the consideration was a cow. I remember the children, two little waifs, each wearing a "fetty" bag hung around the neck. The bags contained aesfoetida, the worst smelling stuff in the world, and which was supposed to prevent catching any disease. And, in my opinion, even a disease would fight shy of that smell.
There was a funny old German woman who seemed always to know the time, though she never had a clock. My beau often told me that, going home, she would hear him when he drove over a nearby bridge, and would tell him next day what time he came home. She had a little curly black dog and used to shear him, spin the fleece and knit her mittens from his hair.
I taught several terms at the Village, in summer upstairs and in winter downstairs, with a man teacher above.
I had many funny experiences in school. One little boy, an Eckert twin, stammered dreadfully. Trying to get out a word, he would kick and when he spelled, it would go like this: "D-d-d-" a kick with every effort, and then, with a mighty effort; and with a kick between each letter; finally "D-O-G."
There was a family who were the pariahs of the Village. The Peg Legs. Tom had been a soldier and the family lived on his pension. Every so often, he would get money from the Government for a new leg but he drank up the money and continued to wear the Peg which gave him his name, "Peg Leg."
There was a daughter who had married the town bully, Dick. While I lived at Grandfather's, she came one day to see Grandfather, who was a Justice of the Peace. Her dress was nearly torn off and she abashed Grandfather by pulling open the torn, dirty rags, baring her breast and showing black and blue bruises. She wanted something done with Dick but that was a chronic problem.
Dick and Milly had two daughters, Lucretia and Violet. One day when I had rung the bell after the noon recess, the children, marching in, said, "Milly is coming, Teacher."
I racked my brain to see what cause of grievance she would have, and in came the children and in came Milly with Lucretia by the ear, "Down on your knees!"
Down dropped Lucretia with the children marching over and around her, "Now beg her pardon, up loud."
"I beg your pardon," quavered Lucretia.
"Why certainly," I said, "but what for?"
"She talked bad about you," explained Milly, "and 'You are good to her and she can't talk that way."
Aunt Sarah was such a wonderful housekeeper. Never have I seen anyone who could accomplish so much with so little seeming effort. I have been there when there were twenty or more thrashers or hay pressers or other workers to be fed and there would be several ten quart pans of baked beans, pans and pans of doughnuts, endless pies, hams and loaves and leaves of bread. We would pare potatoes by the bushel and make gallons of tea and coffee. I loved to help as much as I hated to work at home where everything was so inconvenient and there was never anything to do with.
When I would comment on it and speak of the difference with Aunt Sarah, Mother would say, "Of course Sarah By," to distinguish the two Sarahs, Mother was Sarah Jim and Aunt Sarah, Sarah By. "Of course Sarah By can keep house; she has always done it while I taught school," and I would opine that as she had been married and kept house many more years than she taught school, she might be expected to acquire some proficiency in the work.
I remember once when Jay Lee and Dora Hannahs had brought me home from school. When we got to the house, Mother took to her bed and I had to get supper for the family and guests. There was not a particle of food in the house, not even a crust of bread.
I killed a chicken, nearly cutting off a finger while beheading the struggling fowl and made soda biscuits, (there was never any baking powder in the house). Anxious to have the biscuits extra good, I used too much sour cream and they were hard and yellow with soda and I was so ashamed and tried so hard to keep a good face before my guests.
I tried hard to keep the parlor presentable. There was the beautiful old mahogany sofa and gilt mirror and stove which had been in Grandfather's parlor, but there were only six ugly yellow wood kitchen chairs. I painted an old wash stand for a table.
From my scanty earnings my first school paid $2.50 a week and it was a high mark when I got $30.00 a month and paid my board. I tried to have a place where I could have guests but many times I came home with a beau to find a basket of laundry on the parlor sofa. I think she always kept it there though it was a big house with more than a dozen rooms. She was the world's worst cook and she could not or would not or at any rate, she did not make anything of housekeeping but the veriest drudgry.
But she loved teaching. She should have had a chance to fit herself to be a teacher. She was excellent in arithmetic and a quite remarkable speller. In later years, when she had gone back to school teaching, she got the prize at the Teachers' Institute for spelling them all down. The prize was an unabridged dictionary, of which she was justly proud.
She was a prude and narrow beyond comprehension to me. We never spoke, the same language and she had not the slightest understanding or sympathy for me. Sister Van told me once, "You know you used to have so much color." (Mother Sarah's children were all blonde and pale). "I asked why it was and Mama said, 'In Washington, I suppose she goes, around and drinks liquor and that is why her nose is red'."
I remember once when a horse had knocked me down and hurt me badly. (This was on one of my visits home after being in Washington). I had Dr. Cheeseman come from the Village and Mother set herself down in the bedroom with Van in her lap, determined that nothing improper should happen.
Mother taught poetry to the children. There, I had scored. When she was first married, she read poetry execrably, almost as if she were scanning it but my reading and declaiming so much poetry had gotten her into a better understanding and the little girls learned much poetry from her and would always make a great hit as they recited at my Last Days of School. They used to recite many of Riley's poems and other verse that was popular at that time.
Fred could not do much. He stammered badly and a broken nose and the bad scar on his head which he had from infancy made a sad combination. Poor Fred!
He was so good-hearted and once when we had been to the Christmas tree at the Village, he said, "Liddy went with her arms full and came back with them empty. (I had managed gifts for them all). "I'll certainly see that she has something next year." He did not but I greatly appreciated his kind thought.
Years later, when he had come home from the West with a wife and two children, I came up from Washington to greet them. Fred was so proud of them and wanted to have a picnic with all the family but, alas, the Fox families were not on very friendly terms and no one wanted to go and so poor Fred's efforts to show the family to his wife came to nothing.
Fred was doing pretty well in business or, perhaps like his father, had chimercial ideas, and was sure he was on his way to a fortune. At any rate, he so enthused mother with the money he was going to make with cement that she gave him all of her savings. (She had been teaching school). Fred paid her ten per cent for a while and she was proud and happy. But the cement business did not make a fortune, the money was lost, and poor Fred died and she was so angry that she never kept any track of little Gratia and Willie.
I heard from their grandfather for a time, and he asked me to help in their upbringing and education but I was having a hard time to get along, help Lucy and occasionally send money to Father for a life insurance which was going to lapse or a mortgage interest due, so I could do nothing for Fred's family, and they faded out of my life-but not until long after they had faded from Mother's memory.
I never had any help from home. My father never bought me a dress or a pair of shoes after I was sixteen and went to Grandfather's. When Lucy died, having nursed two or three years, she had saved nothing and I borrowed money to pay for her funeral and take her back to Watertown. Father said, with some pride, "I had the grave dug." Mother said that she would see that I was paid something toward the expense of about five hundred dollars, which I had to borrow. But when she died, she left me nothing.
I taught school for several years but did not specially like it. Discipline was never easy for me and my sense of the ridiculous was always so keen that when the children saw the corners of my mouth twitch, they knew I was ready to laugh and could not be severe. I liked teaching bright pupils but had not much patience with dull ones.
When at Uncle James, I had worked in the store a little and had played with the telegraph key but neither of these occupations attracted me.
There were not many occupations open to women in those days but I decided to be a stenographer, though I had never seen a typewriter or a stenographer.
So I went to Oswego with forty dollars which I had saved.
My uncles did not approve of this. They said I could always get a school and, of course, I would marry so what was the use. But dear Aunt Manie encouraged me and when my money was exhausted, lent me more.
Chaffee's Shorthand School was one of the first and the demand for stenographers and typewriters was in its earliest stages.
I paid part of my expenses by teaching those less advanced and reading to those farther along in taking dictation. My penmanship had always been bad and so I was at a disadvantage in making notes but my intelligence and general information helped to make up for other handicaps.
I had a room where I could cook my meals and I paid $1.25 a week; I got milk for five cents a quart; bread, five cents a loaf; oatmeal, three cents a pound; strawberries, five cents a quart; liver, ten cents a pound; and often room and food came within my limit of two dollars a week. I paid $7.50 a month for tuition.
Mr. Chaffee was a patriarchal looking man with a long white beard and his assistant, Miss Eva Wolf, was a dear. Then there was pretty little Jessie Proudfoot who was also an assistant.
I borrowed a little money from Aunt Manie which I paid with my first earnings. Uncle James Lee gave me a fountain pen. He now lived in Gouverneur, where he had a jewelry store, and Aunt Manie lived with him and Aunt Nellie after the death of Grandfather and Grandmother.
As soon as I had absorbed enough shorthand, Uncle James got a place for me with a firm in Gouverneur making agricultural machinery. Uncle James' home seemed very elegant to me. I had visited them and there saw my first bath tub-such a luxury. Aunt Nellie was always lovely to me and there was dear Aunt Manie. There were three children, Genevieve, sweet Eula and little, Mollie, a dear youngster.
I found a nice boarding place with Mother Lawrence, a sweet woman who made a good home for half a dozen of us. I roomed with a school-teacher, a gray ghost of a person who was always walking up and down. She was evidently not well and afterwards I heard that she had become insane. There were two young man, Will and Jo, and a sweet young girl, Mary Howe, an orphan. We had great fun and I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere. And, besides, my special beau was near enough so that he could come for Sunday sometimes.
I liked my work with the St. Lawrence Manufacturing Company. I went at eight, home for dinner at twelve, back to work at one and home at six. I swept the office, went to the store to get tobacco for Mr. Norton and made myself generally useful and I got eight dollars a week. I felt myself rich beyond the dreams of avarice.
They were very good to me. Mr. Corbin, handsome and elegant, Mr. Hartley, kind and fatherly and Mr. Norton, bearded like a pard, smoking like a furnace and his pipe smelling to high heaven. He introduced me to Mrs. Browning, via "Aurora Leigh," and to other literature.
I loved to go out to the foundry to watch them making and filling moulds. The molten metal was fascinating. In fact, I liked it all. I saved enough to pay Aunt Manie and it seemed that I had nothing more to ask of life.
At Christmas, I went to Watertown where Uncle Will Mantle met me with a bob sled and wagon box filled with straw and buffalo robes, and as many of the family as could pile in, and we went through the deep snow to Orchard Dale. And we had the jolliest Christmas I had ever seen and, I think, perhaps the jolliest I ever had.
There was the big family with Carrie and Elwyn Ayers from Watertown. Christmas eve, each person selected a chair and put gifts on those of the others. We tried very hard not to peek as we passed our own. The big sitting room was lighted by a hanging lamp. We had an evening of songs and big pans of apples from the cellar and pop corn and cider, then the placing of gifts.
Next morning, we had to wait until after breakfast and the men had finished their chores, and then came a wonderful day. Uncle Will had bought more than a dozen big celluloid combs and every female had one and it seemed to me that the gifts were endless. It was really the first happy Christmas I had ever known.
I do not know if it was that day, but during that visit there was a hard snow storm and in the morning, when the men came from the barn, they brought in a baby owl which had been caught in the storm and was helpless in the light. The bird flew to the ceiling and lighted on the hanging lamp, where he stared at the, assembled family. His eyes would follow one around the room and then his head would turn so quickly that the watcher could not catch the movement. The children went round and round the room, fascinated by the steady stare of the little owl and finally I told a silly story of a hunter who was caught in the woods without ammunition, and wishing to kill an owl, walked round and round the tree until the owl's head snapped off. Korleen of the copper hair and tender heart, took my story seriously and wept long and loud because the other children would not stop their walking and the bird did not stop his watching and she was sure he would lose his head, and all my insistence that it was a fabulous tale, did not convince her, for she never saw the bird turn. We kept the baby owl in the house until the storm was over, then let him out, where I hope he joined his family in the barn or the woods.
The patent attorney of the manufacturing company came up from Washington. They were deep in litigation in patents. The Company was conferring with Mr. Doubleday in my office. This was part of the big office with a partition reaching part way to the ceiling. I was holding the fort in the outer office when one of the salesmen came in. He was a sneaking fellow and I saw was dawdling around and listening to what was said in the other room. I made an excuse to carry something in and took in a note, telling hem of the eavesdropper, and that everything said was eagerly heard. This so pleased Mr. Doubleday that before he left, he asked me to come to Washington to work for him. His stenographer was to be married. He wanted me to come for a year at $60 for the first month, an increase of $5 a month until he paid me $75 a month for the rest of the year. That was more than twice what I was getting and seemed an almost incredible sum.
The Corbin Company were very sorry to let me go and regretted that they had sung my praises so loud to Mr. Doubleday, but, of course, I could not refuse so magnificent an offer.
I had marriage in the back of my head and, of course, my young man did not want me to go, but I felt that I just must try my wings before I settled down.
One part of my work I must tell about. The letters were written with a copying ribbon. Then every letter was copied in a letter book of tissue pages and with wet cloths put over each page, with the letter underneath. When they were all fixed, the books were put in a letter press and squeezed until the impression had been made. It was a nasty job and my office looked like a laundry with the wet rags hanging to dry. I do not remember that there were any carbons in those days. Anyway, the letters were all in the book and had to be indexed every day.
But I liked it all and I liked the Gouverneur people. We had great fun and I remember some sort of entertainment where I was Lord Ullin's daughter. I think my boat was a wash tub and I rowed as hard as ever I could and some one I think it was Arthur Corbin, shook the green carpet to simulate mounting waves, the while someone off stage emoted:
"Come back, come back, he cried in grief. My daughter, Oh my daughter!"
My brother Jim and I resembled each other strongly and once while I was in Gouverneur, a friend went up in the Big Woods where Jim was working in a store. Going in the store, my friend asked Jim, "Is your name Fox?" Jim said it was and my friend asked, "Are you any kin of Lydia Fox?" and Jim told him I was his sister.
Everything was so pleasant in Gouverneur that I hated to leave but this was too good an opportunity to lose.
And so to Washington I came.
Mr. Doubleday met me in New York and took me to a boarding house where he stayed on his frequent visits to that city. I remember that Mary Mapes Dodge was one of the family.
I got in early in the morning. I had on a pair of new shoes. The buttons had not been fastened and ,had started to come off. I had salvaged the buttons and shamefacedly, had to ask for a needle and thread to sew them on, as soon as I got in the house.
Mr. Doubleday was very nice to me. My enthusiasm at what I saw and gratitude for his attention, must pleased him. He took me to Wall Street where saw the Stock Exchange, and to the wharf where Mrs. Powell and her daughter were sailing for Europe. Maude Powell, the famous violinist, was there and she was very kind to the country mouse. She was charming young woman and a niece of the traveling Mrs. Powell. Her father was Superintendent of Schools in Washington.
I must tell you something of the Powells. Mrs. Powell who was going journeying was the wife of the famous Powell of the Geological Survey. He was the first and for many years the only man to go down the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon. He had lost a leg or arm in his exploration.
I went to live at the Doubleday house. Mrs. Doubleday who I came to know and love years later, was in Europe. She was musical and artistic and I think was then painting in Paris.
|Pages 318 - 320||Chapter 18
Lois was such a dear and for so many years she never missed a Memorial Day. She always went out to Depauville and put flowers on the grave of every ... This she did until she became too feeble. Dear L... am sure she wanders now in gardens where the flowers never fade.
Lucy Fox married Jack Folsome and they live Buffalo. There are no children.
Lottie Fox married Fred Knutty and they had two children, Lucy and Leslie. Lottie and Fred stayed on the Black River Farm when her father and mother went to Watertown, and, in turn, left it to their son, Leslie. It is a beautiful place looking off toward the Lake towards which the Black River hurries. It is a beautiful old house.
Lucy Knutty married Stephen Porter and they live in Watertown.
Leslie Knutty married Ruth Trumbo and they had two daughters, Sally Ann and Helen. Sally Ann died while a little girl and Helen is still a child at home.
Roy Fox married Allie Hastings. They live in his father's old home in Watertown and have no children.
My father was Grandfather's first child. He had seven children of whom
three are living. There are seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Uncle Byron had four children, none living. There four grandchildren,
three great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.
Uncle Charlie had five children, two living. There are five grandchildren
and one great-grandchild.
Aunt Nellie had four children, all living. There are ten grandchildren
and ten great-grandchildren.
Uncle Frank had two children, both living. There is one grandchild.
Uncle Fred had three children, all living. There are two grandchildren
and one great-grandchild.
There are 66 living descendants.
It is a sad fact that there are only four males of the third generation named Fox and only one of the fourth generation. That is Dr. L. Otis Fox. And of all these descendants of my grandfather, time in a century and a quarter, there is no name or descent living in Depauville. Of eleven children, two died in infancy, two in youth, and one, Uncle Frank, by accident. Of the remaining five, Aunt Mary lived well into their ... and my father, Uncle Byron, Uncle Nellie and Uncle Fred lived to be ... every one was in good health, mentally and, physically, until the end.
I have looked at a lot of little maps but never could I get myself oriented. North was South and I was thoroughly mixed up. The only thing of which I was sure was that the sun set across the Creek from Grandfather's house in Depauville.
Now Josephine Johnson has sent me an old map printed in 1855. This shows the names of all the landowners on their holdings. It is a quaint old thing with plans of the principal towns and pictures of the principal buildings. There I found Grandfather's farms and those of the Mantles and other relatives. She bought it at auction long ago, meaning to hang it in their library when Johnny made war no more and they had a settled home. They have the home now in Asheville but she has let me have the map for this chronicle. It was very appropriate that this map came from Josephine as Colonel Johnny was responsible for all the maps used by the Army in the late War.
Depauville is in the middle of Clayton Township and almost directly South of Clayton, seven miles away. Watertown is ten or more miles south of Depauville
The Big Farm is on what was then the main road from Clayton to Watertown. Now, I believe the main road is by way of Stone Mills. Our road went through Reynolds Corners, Perch River and Brownville.
Depauville was two miles to the north and at the Big Barn which was a landmark at that time, a ... road came out from Chaumont six or more miles to ...