Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I Remember Grandma

[Related by Granddaughter Joanna Smith Reismann]

"LUCY SUSAN STINSON was born November 13, 1846, in Henrysville, Logan County, Kentucky. She was the fourteenth child of Archibald Stinson and Elizabeth Smothers. I never heard her talk of her childhood except to say that her father was a Baptist minister and the family was conscientious in their religion, attending religious services on Sundays, and prayer meetings on Wednesdays. Grandma Hendricks taught Sunday School in the Baptist Church when her father was a minister and she knew her Bible really well. She also said Bible stories were fine but the Bible wasn’t fit for children to read. Her favorite song was “Oh, Beulah Land,” which I heard her sing often. In my mind I can still hear her singing:

“Oh, Beulah land, sweet Beulah land

Upon thy highest mount I stand.

I look away across the sea

Where mansions are prepared for me

And view the shining Glory shore

My heaven, my home forevermore.”

Grandma must have had the opportunity of going to school because she could read and write, and in her later years was a dedicated Genealogist.

In her day, girls did not work away from home. In order to earn a little “pin money,” she had a patch of tobacco to raise. The sphinx moth larvae (tomato worms to us) is a pest which damaged the tobacco plants just as they do tomato vines. The only means of control was to go through the patch, pick off the worms and destroy them. Most girls picked them off by hand and broke off their heads, but not Grandma. She abhorred worms and was not about to touch one. She used the fireplace tongs to pick off the worms.

During the Civil War she was a teenager, 15-18 years old. Her brothers were in the Union Army and she was obliged to help her father in the fields. The area was sometimes in control of the Union Army, sometimes the confederates, and at times they were within sound of the conflict. Before leaving, her married brothers had settled their wives near her father for protection. When they heard the cannon and sounds of battle they would all gather at her father’s home and cry together.

Grandma Hendricks had a strong dislike for the Confederacy. A group of rebels had shot a man for just crossing the road. When they came to the house and demanded to be fed she threw the metal plates on the table and treated them with such exaggerated, sarcastic courtesy that they called her a little hussy.

At the age of 20 she married James William Hendricks, son of James Hendricks and Elizabeth Whitaker, probably at Elkton, Todd County, Kentucky. Their first home was in Clifty, Todd County, Kentucky where their first three children were born; Nancy Elizabeth, Arminda Alice, and Amanda Catherine. They had moved to Logan County, Kentucky before April 1873 when Willa Belle was born and later David Carlee, who lived just eight days. By 1876 they were living in Huntsville, Butler county, Kentucky where the next five children were born; Joanna, Martha Susan, James Balus, Dora Edith (who lived only five months), and Charles McHenry. They owned a farm near Huntsville.

It was the custom in that area for the women to do the milking. I remember Grandma telling how they helped her to the kitchen doorstep where she sat and milked the cow even when was too sick to sit up. Even when her babies were born she had to be helped to the door so she could milk the cow. I asked why her husband didn’t do that chore while she was ill, and she replied: “He didn’t know how. Besides, men didn’t do women’s work in those days.

While Grandma was raising her children in Kentucky she cooked over an old fashioned fireplace. No kitchen stove. She had hooks which she could swing out and in to hang her cooking pots on while they heated. The hearthstone was kept clean and scrubbed because that is where she baked her “Corn pone,” a sort of thick corn pancake. There was an oven in one side of the fireplace where they baked their “light bread.” As with most southerners at that time, “bread” was baking powder biscuits, and then there was corn bread, corn pone, and light bread. Grandma had an odd notion about her bread, she left out the salt. With buttermilk or clabbered milk, she put the salt in. “You don’t ever use salt when you are having sweet milk, “ she used to say. The corn pone tasted rather blah to me without salt, but she thought it was just right. With salt it was very good. Nancy, Alice and Mandy helped Grandma with the cooking and the housework. Willa Belle and Joanna helped their father in the fields.

Living in rural Kentucky in the 1860's-70's was not easy. Grandma had to help shear the sheep, wash the wool, card it, and then spin the thread. She also had to card and spin the cotton thread. She then had to weave the cloth and make the family clothing by hand. She never had a sewing machine. As you can see, the clothing had to last a long time. One “Sunday” dress and one, or at most two, dresses for every day. She also had to knit all the stockings. The tree older girls were taught to knit and to darn hose. Nancy did a lot of the cooking rather than do the knitting.

All was not drudgery. In the fall the family took time out for outings in the “woods” where they would gather the hickory and hazel nuts which crew in abundance there, gathering enough for their year’s needs. Many wild fruit and nut trees grew on their farm. One day while they were playing along the creek, Nan, Alice and Mandy found a cherry tree. The berries were ripe but too high for the girls to reach. The older girls sent Mandy back to the house for an axe. They then proceeded to chop down the tree so they could get the cherries. What did their mother do? She simply said, “Now, what are you going to do for cherries next year?”

Grandma had nicknames for all her living children except Balus and Alice. Nancy was

Nan, Amanda was Mandy or Kate, Willa Belle was Willer, Joanna was Annie, Martha Susan was Susie, and Charles McHenry was Charley. For years I thought I had two aunts living in Gridley because Grandma would sometimes call her Mandy and sometimes Kate.

Grandma Hendricks adored her mother and made a home for her when she married James Hendricks. Grandmother Elizabeth lived with her daughter and family until the family moved to Arizona. She then moved in with one of her sons. I think all of them, including Elizabeth, regretted this decision and wished she had gone along with them. My mother kept a picture of Granny Elizabeth in a prominent place in her home as long as I can remember.

Grandpa and a friend heard about the Mormon missionaries preaching and decided to see what it was all about. He came home and told Grandma all about it. She is the one who really believed. The Baptist minister had told them to stay away and not let the womenfolk go to the meetings. Grandpa decided if there was a reason to stay away, he wanted to find out why. The missionaries contacted the James Hendricks family and found them friendly and interested. Their home was always open for a meal and a place to sleep. Finally in 1882, Elders John W, Taylor and Jacob G. Bigler converted the family to the L.D.S. church and baptized the parents, Alice, Amanda and Willa Belle. The oldest daughter, Nancy Elizabeth, was not yet ready and the other children were too young. Being “Mormon” was not the accepted thing to do in a predominantly Baptist community, so the family decided to move west where the Mormons were concentrated. It took some doing to get their farm sold and the money in hand, but the time finally came. Grandma and her older daughters cooked and baked for several days to prepare enough food to last them on the long train trip to Arizona. They packed all this food in a large basket arranged so they would have some for each day of the trip. Grandma had a colored man and wife; the woman was Nanny to all the children. When Grandma and Grandpa left to come west they deeded five acres to them where their cabin was, and they cried like babies when Grandma told them they were free people and couldn’t go with them to Arizona. Annie had a fit because Grandma let the Nanny kiss her goodbye.

The family boarded the train in Kentucky, and as they were going through a town in Texas a crowd of “ruffians” (as my mother called them) got on the train and proceeded to take over the car the Hendricks family was in. Grandfather, being concerned for the safety of his large family, took them to another car where they stayed until the rowdies left at another station a little further on. When the family returned to their seats they found all the food gone! The men had eaten everything! Nothing left for the family’s needs on the journey. That was the one thing that little Annie remembered about the train ride.

Arriving at Bowie, Arizona, the family was met by Elder Bigler who took them to his home in Central, Arizona where they stayed for several days while Grandpa looked for a farm to buy. He finally bought some acreage in Thatcher and moved there to learn a new way of farming. Irrigation was new to him, but he did well and even bought more land.

Two more babies were born to them in Thatcher. George Washington, who lived only five days, and Archibald, who lived four months. Not all was sadness, however, because in 1886 the second daughter, Alice, was married to William P. Asay, a widower with a son almost as old as Alice. In 1888 the oldest daughter, Nancy, was married to James Andrew Smith.

For some reason the family moved to Pima and opened a general store there. One of the stories Grandma liked to tell was about an old man called “Uncle Peter” McBride. One day his wife came in the store and asked Grandpa, “Have you seen my Peter today?” Then Grandma would laugh until she shook. In 1889, shortly after they moved to Pima, the third daughter, Amanda Catherine, was married to William Price.

While they were living in Pima, Grandma became seriously ill with a high fever. She was about seven months pregnant and was watching herself very carefully because she had lost so many babies. Her fever became so high she became delirious. One of the ladies in the town (who was supposed to be so very good in the sick room) came to help out. She proceeded to pack Grandma in turpentine-soaked towels. Well, it brought the fever down alright, but it also brought the twin boys prematurely. With no facilities to care for preemies, both babies died. The old lady named them Olie and Olien while Grandma was too sick to protest. Grandma was furious. I remember her still fuming over the ignorance of that old lady even after I was a good-sized child.

The family moved back to Thatcher and the farm soon after losing the babies. Katie says when she was a child Grandma liked and kept canaries. She hung the cages from hooks in the ceiling so cats couldn’t come in through the open windows and molest them. They didn’t have screens on the windows. They were living in Thatcher during the courtship of the two youngest daughters who were married in a double ceremony in the family home there. Joanna married Mitchel M. Smith, a brother of James Andrew Smith, and Martha Susan married Thomas S. Merrill. Grandpa gave each of his daughters twenty acres of land as a wedding gift.

Some years before I was born, Grandpa and Grandma moved to Franklin, Arizona, right on the New Mexico line. Grandfather died there in 1908. Grandma then moved in with Aunt Susie, but spent much of her time visiting her other children. They were all married now. Balus married Margaret Merill in 1902, and Charles married Ella Brown in 1906. When Grandma would come to see us she would have an entire trunk just for her feather bed and her pillows, another trunk for her clothes, and so on. Then she had what she called her “grip” for food along the way. It was a high point in our young lives to watch Grandma fluff up her feather bed and get it ready for sleeping. She always had two or three huge feather pillows on top. Every morning she would fluff up her pillows and her bed. I can still remember her saying “Feathers have to breathe! You never leave a pillow mashed down!” Every day as I fluff up my own pillows, I think of Grandma and her pillows.

When Grandma came to visit, she always brought little glass containers full of candies for the younger children. Once I got a little glass lantern. Another time Ralph got a little glass pistol. But when we turned six, we no longer received the candy gifts. According to Grandma, when you started school you were too old for presents.

Before Grandma’s visits Mama would get busy with her “rug rags.” We would dye old sheets bright colors and rip them up into strips, then sew the strips together and wind them into balls. All the old dresses and shirts and socks became rug rags, because Grandma would stay only as long as there was something for her to do. Out of the many balls of colored rags, Grandma would crochet rugs for the house. She made her own hook out of a piece of axe handle. All of Grandma’s children had beautiful crocheted rugs for their homes. She spent much of her time piecing crazy-patch quilts out of pieces of silk and velvet. Each block was beautifully embroidered at the seams of each piece of material. She had a large pincushion with many needles, each threaded with a different color of embroidery floss. Each of her children received one of these beautiful quilts as a gift from Grandma. How I wish the silk pieces could have been preserved, because the quilts were really a work of art.

Every time there was a baby due, Grandma was there to take over. When Paul Hendricks was born and Aunt Ella was so very sick, Grandma was there. The baby was premature and so very tiny. The doctor handed her the baby and asked, “Do you think you can keep this baby alive?” Grandma just snorted. The doctor had his hands full trying to keep Aunt Ella alive, but Grandma kept that room warm enough for a preemie and kept both of them alive. No one was allowed in the room except the doctor. Even Uncle Charlie was not allowed to bring “germs” in to the baby. It was such a rare thing for a baby to live in those circumstances that it was written up in a medical journal by Dr. Maude Callison.

One time Grandma was at our house for Christmas. My sister, Lucille, was due to be born at any time. Grandma was 69 years old at the time so Mama had asked my cousin Norma to come and take care of the house. Norma was 17 or 18. After we had all hung up our stockings, Grandma put out a milk pan instead of a stocking, so Norma put out a milk pan, too. Papa quietly slipped a silver dollar into Grandma’s pan along with the apple, nuts, candy, etc. Old eagle-eyed Norma saw him, so she slyly slipped it out and put it in her own pan. Of course Grandma saw her, so back it went. Several times during the night one or the other was up to see where the dollar was. I really don’t know who ended up with the dollar, but those two crazies had a lot more than a dollar’s worth of fun out of it.

Grandma Hendricks always traveled by train when going to visit her children. All the money she had was a twenty-dollar Civil War pension, but she managed to save up enough for her train fare. She even managed to save up enough for a visit to her two daughters in Florida. She made several trips to Salt Lake to do temple work for her people. She also traveled to Gridley, California to visit her daughter, Amanda, and her family. One summer on one of her visits with Mandy she camped out with the older girls while they worked in the peach cannery. Their mother thought they were too young to be camping out alone, so Grandma went along as cook and chaperone. Katie was 15 and Mamie was 13, but they were both good workers. Working conditions in the canneries were nothing like they are today. Everyone worked on a “piece work” basis, so Grandma would go over and help the girls some of the time. When she got tired she would go back to the tent and rest.

In between Grandma’s visits to Thatcher, where her daughter, Joanna, and her son, Charley, lived, we would occasionally take several days to visit the relatives in Franklin. We would visit Grandma and Aunt Susie and her daughter, Zylpha Gale. One time we all piled in buggies and went across the river to Virden, New Mexico, to visit Grandma’s brother, Thomas Brown Stinson. He had a farm almost directly across the river from Aunt Susie. He was tall and lean, just like Grandma. We also visited Uncle Tom’s son, George Stinson, who lived near Duncan.

Grandma always carried peppermints in her pocket. She had the idea that the strong peppermint flavor would kill the odor of her snuff, which she had chewed since she was a child. She would cut a young shoot from a black-willow tree, peel it and pound one end of it until it made a little brush. This is what she used to dip her snuff. She would then put it in her cheek with the end of the stick sticking out of the corner of her mouth. It seemed to give her great comfort, but she wasn’t fooling anyone. The distinctive odor of the snuff stayed with her no matter how much she rinsed her mouth, or how many peppermints she used. She was generous with the children who could count on a peppermint from her for doing little favors for her. When the children would ask Grandma to come play, or sit on the floor with them, she would say, “I can’t do that, I have a bone in my leg.” We felt so sorry that Grandma had a bone in her leg. She was good to the children but would allow no “backtalk.” One day she asked Eva to do something and, instead of minding, Eva came back with a sassy remark. Immediately Grandma’s arm flew out with a backhand to Eva’s mouth, and before Eva had time to recover from the shock Grandma was saying, “You have to watch out for this arm, there is a spring in there that flies out any time anyone sasses Grandma.” You may be sure no one ever sassed Grandma again.

One of the things I remember about Grandma was the way she ground just enough coffee beans each morning to make just one cup of coffee. I had watched her drink her one cup each morning for years. Never having coffee around except when Grandma was there, I became curious as to how it would taste. One morning as I was clearing up the breakfast dishes, I noticed that Grandma had left about a third of her coffee so I decided to see what it tasted like. One sip was enough! Stone cold and very black – even a coffee lover would have shuddered. Needless to say, coffee was never a temptation to me again. But Grandma chewed her snuff and drank her black coffee until the day she died.

Grandma was tall and lean; she never had an ounce of fat. Her complexion was olive and she had dark brown eyes. Her hair was dark brown, luxurious and long. Truly a crowning glory, beautiful hair that she wore slicked back with a big bun in the back. From the front you would think she had very little hair. When she brushed her hair she would bring it all forward and brush down from her head in front of her body. The hair was so long it would reach the floor while she brushed it this way. She couldn’t reach the ends unless she took hold of her hair with her left hand and lifted it so she could finish brushing to the ends with her right hand. As a small child I would sneak under her hair and look up at her face to see if she would let me stay. Sometimes she would. She never washed her hair during the cold months of the winter, but she brushed it religiously and washed her comb and brush every day. Several times during the cold months she would put corn meal all through her hair and all over her scalp, then she would brush it till all the corn meal was gone and her hair shone like satin. Her hair never turned gray, much to her disgust. She was a firm believer that older women should have gray hair. She also had the odd notion that a woman with brown hair should never wear lavender, light blue, or pink. Those were colors for gray or white hair. Because of this opinion she never wore those lovely colors but stayed with black, brown and gray. No one could make her change her mind on this.

Aunt Nan and Aunt Susie had moved to Hayden where there was work in the mills there. Uncle Charlie had moved to Miami some time before. Then in January of 1926 my father decided to take his family to Hayden where he could get work. I was going to college at the time. In March of 1927 Aunt Susie had gone to visit her daughter and left Grandma to look after Uncle Tom. One day when he came home from work, he found Grandma crumpled up on a pile of rocks at the base of the steep outside stairs. These steps were very steep, straight down the middle of the front of the house, and no handrails. Grandma had remarked earlier that those steps would be the death of her, and they were. Soon after her death Uncle Tom moved the steps to go down the side of the house from the yard and also made a handrail. At least it was over quickly and she didn’t have to suffer. So on March 21, 1927 we lost our Grandma. The man at the mortuary said he couldn’t believe she was 81 years old. She had the firm young body of a sixteen-year-old, with not a mark anywhere except the bruises where she fell. I didn’t get to go home for the funeral so my memory of Grandma is of a very live, vigorous, lean, healthy, energetic, determined woman, with a definite mind of her own. "

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