Monday, July 18, 2011

Lide's Blog – Part 1

At the Second Life gathering on Sunday evening, I mentioned that I had some memoirs from the 19th century and asked the gathering how I could share them. It was suggested that I place these transcriptions into my blog. This will appear in more than one Blog.

How I Acquired the Papers
(Note: on September 9, 1943, [my 16th birthday] I came home to find that my father’s Uncle Charlie had stopped by to spend the night. He was on his way back to Benton Harbor, after visiting family out west. Uncle Charlie’s grandson was going to be stationed at Washington University as part of the army training program, and Uncle Charlie solicited family attention for Joseph Scott — who was rather shy.
Then, during the meal Uncle Charlie told us some of what he had learned about the family on that visit. My younger sister was more vocal in her fascination with his stories; Charlie told her that he would send her his transcription of these papers plus some that he already had at home in Benton Harbor.
This letter together with the accompanying papers is a follow up of that visit.)

    251 Lake Ave., Benton Harbor, Mich.
    Oct . 4, 1943.

Dear Rae:-
        Enclosed you will find a copy of the history that you wished. I have added to it a couple of chapters that I did not have with me at your house. I hope it will give you as much pleasure to have and to read as it has been to me to help prepare it. I hope also that it maybe an incentive to you to investigate and record the history and accomplishments of your family and your relatives, both near and distant, of whom there are many. I am sure it will give you much pleasure to do so and you can have a part of making a permanent record.
    Please tell your parents and your sister that I enjoyed my short visit at your home. Your Uncle Joe and Aunt Ida came over and spent a half day here while we went out and got for them peaches and other fruit.
            Your Uncle

[Initial Note by Uncle Charlie:]
In the spring of 1938 realizing that Eliza Wantz or Lide as she was called was the oldest of grandfather Shafer’s living descendants I wrote her asking for whatever early history she might be able to give concerning the family. She replied with the following letter which she closes by saying she will send data I wish. She did prepare the data and it was awaiting me five years later but after her death when I was privileged to visit her home. The data mentioned follows this letter from her.

Beyond The Mississippi
By Eliza Hoover Wantz

    In 1856 my father with his wife Barbara, my mother, and three children, Eliza, nearing the age of six, Abi Catherine, aged four, and Joseph aged six months, moved from Wabash County, Indiana, from the town of Laketon where I was born, to Mankato, Minnesota.
    In the party were my father’s older brother, George and family of wife, Eliza Ann (Bear) and a little son Lundy still in long clothes. (My Aunt always boasted she usually used three yards of goods in her baby dresses.) Also Thomas Jefferson aged 15, son of his first wife, and Aunt’s father Ephraim Bear. My mother’s father, Henry Shafer, and my mother’s eldest sister Catherine, (born Jan, 22,1829) and her youngest sister, Hannah, aged ten years.
    Grandfather took his own team and wagon and my aunts both rode with him. And Mr.Bear had his team and wagon and Aunt Eliza rode with him; and Uncle George had his team and wagon and his son Tom rode with him and they carried the provisions and horse feed. They left in April. I well remember the day. I wanted my mother to take her wash bowl and pitcher with the pretty flowers on it. The said “no-no.” I said “Why ma,what will you bathe the baby in?” and how the trees and shrubs looked, especially the hazel bushes and wild flowers under them as we rounded the first corner out of town.
    We were not bothered much by Indians, only once when one of the wagon wheels got fast in between two planks in a little bridge over a soft, muddy place. All the men put their strength to turn the wheel when some friendly Indians came up from seemingly nowhere and offered to help, but the men said “They never pulled nor lifted a pound,” but they spied a jug hanging on the wagon and took a swig but soon put it down and made a wry face,and I remember the folks laughed as of course they thought it would be whiskey. I later asked my father what was in it. He said, “Not whiskey anyway”. Though those old timers were not a stranger to its taste, most of them had it on their tables; but I have never known any of my people to over indulge.
    The most terrifying incident on the way was not Indians but my little four year old sister Abi screaming, crying, and begging her father and mother to not ford the rivers. Such anguish. I thought my parents cruel to not give a thought. They only begged her to keep still as it was spring time and all streams were full by May. They were all intent on getting safely across. Those old Conestoga1 wagon beds were made boat shape to better ford the streams.
    The only time I remember of seeing Indians on the whole trip was one day on the prairie. One wagon, I think it was the one my father was driving one wheel of the wagon stuck between two timbers. May have been a small corduroy bridge across a small stream. Any way all men came running to help and soon some Indians came “out of nowhere” and put their hands to help. The men said “the Indians did not pull nor lift a pound.” I remember going into one cemetery to sit and rest with my aunt and her little sister--was a peaceful and quiet place with trees and shrubs. Most people did this instead of a park--did not have many parks at this time.
    Every night Ephraim Bear sang his little grandchild to sleep with Swanee River and other darkie tunes. He was a Kentuckian.
    One night when all were in their first sleep some bandits or horse thieves were routed by the men just in time to save their horses as they already had them rounded up and were making away with them. They were saved only by the dogs barking. Aunt Eliza had a lap dog she brought with her and as soon as he barked it awakened the big dog who was always tired at night after travelling all day after the teams or wagons.
    It was after this that we had the hail storm between Winona and Mankato.. A severe hail storm came up between Winona and Mankato. They unhitched the horses. My mother wanted my father to bring the horses heads into the wagon cover but he said it was not necessary as they knew how to protect themselves. That fall father was travelling down to ------------- by coach (stage) and one man said, “I wonder what made those big holes in the clay” and father said “I know. Last spring when we were coming out here from Indiana a terrible hail storm--balls as big as goose eggs fell and of course left these holes.”
    Uncle George and his son Thomas or Tom went around by Chicago to see if they might like to settle in that vicinity, but came along with the rest in a day or two. Later they went on and had everything ready near Mankato, just on out of the town a little farther on through the town. We staid there until late fall and then moved into town. My father soon got work at his trade while we staid out on the land we pre-empted.
    Suppose we drove on through Mankato to the timber where my father took up a pre-emption. On arriving we lived in a cabin, no windows, a large door fastened at opposite corners with large pegs in auger holes. Enough floor for the beds, and the stove and table in daytime, and at night the beds were put on the floor.

NOTES (from SWM):
The transcription was made on a typewriter; Rae was sent the bottom (second or third) carbon copy from this typing. The typewriter keys were not clean, so some of this original transcription is very hard to read. My sister made a copy of these typescript carbons at Kinkos. It is the Kinko’s copy that I have in my possession. The original carbon copies and the Kinko copies are both very difficult to read, so I made an electronic transcription on my computer. What appears in the blog comes from that transcription.
For the purpose of these blogs, I have decided to rearrange Lide’s memoirs into a more connected narrative. The transcription in our archives (as well as the Kinko copies) remain in the original order as closely as Rae and I could determine that order back in 1943.
In the next post, we will read Lide’s descriptions of her short time in Mankato.

Source: Eliza “Lide” (Hoover) Wantz (1850 -1941), (Okanagan, Washington), Charles E. Shafer (1867 - 1961), (Benton Harbor, Michigan), Lide’s ca 1938 Family History and Reminiscenses, focusing on the 1860s and 1870s, Annotated transcription by Shafer ca 1943., Photocopies, supplied by Rae (Strickler) Underwood, (private address), to Sue W. McCormick, {August 2008}, Prime source(s); sometimes hard to read., My transcription is stored in the computer, the original and a printout are in the paper files.

Here's to facing our frustrations and sharing our successes,

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for posting this in your blog, I was really hoping you would after the Sunday evening chat in SL :-)