Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mary's Family

My grandmother Mary Ann Waggoner was born in Bland County Virginia on May 20, 1887, the third child and first daughter of Eli Pierce and Rachel Havens Waggoner. Being the oldest daughter, Mary was expected to help with her five younger brothers and sisters. She loved school, but sometimes she had to miss it to help her mother with a sick child or other emergency. She hated that. Even so, she was determined to finish school, and she apparently she did, although I've never found her school records. She even took “normal training” and taught a few years at the Ellendale school. 

I’m not sure when the Waggoner family moved from Bland County Virginia where all of the children were born into the Chatham Hill area of Rich Valley, Smyth County, Virginia, but they did. 

Eli and Rachel Waggoner are seated in front. Left to right, back row: Emory, Alice, Gordon, Jacob, Leo. Middle row: Mary, Ida, Amanda. This picture was probably taken in Missouri after the family moved there in 1908 or '09. Notice the girl's dresses are all made from the same fabric. There are two versions of this family portrait. The first one does not include Gordon and Leo whose images were added later. Even then there was photo-shopping, to a degree.

I don’t know much else about Mary’s childhood. Most likely during her childhood, Mary would have been expected to help her mother with the all the housework. This meant not only cleaning, cooking, and taking care of the younger children, but also doing laundry in the ice cold water of the creek near where they lived on a small parcel of land, about eight acres, along a creek somewhere in the valley; I’m not sure of the exact location. According to census records, her father Eli Waggoner was a farmer. She had older brothers who probably were expected to help their father with the animals, the plowing, and so forth. Mary may have helped with the care of chickens, a task she enjoyed later in life. 

As an adult, Mary loved her chickens, my mother told me. She enjoyed standing in the chicken house and simply watching them peck and cackle and fluff their feathers as they settled themselves onto their nests. The mixed smells of chicken feed, straw, feathers, and chicken droppings never appealed to me in the few times I entered a chicken house, but to Mary, they must have been tolerable if not pleasurable. If she enjoyed her chickens so much, I’m sure she must have kept her chicken house as clean as possible. She must have reached with gentle fingers under each hen to extract her eggs from her nest, maybe clucking to the chicken all the while to distract her. Mary sold her eggs, but not just to the grocery store or to her neighbors. She sold fertilized eggs to the hatchery in town because she could get more money per egg that way, which tells me she was smart and enterprising.

(c) 2013 Z. T. Noble

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