Thursday, March 31, 2016

Clearing a Family Cemetery

Once in a while, I need to set aside the family history and focus on the family present. This is one of those times.

On Saturday, March 19, 2016, three descendants of Mathias Harman (1769-1802, Henry, Sr. > Heinrich Adam) met once again at The Quarter Way Inn near Bland, Virginia. You may (or not) recall our meeting last summer at the invitation of Tina Kiehn, proprietor of TQWI, who had contacted me earlier in the year and said, “I think I live in a house where your ancestors lived." Was I excited? I could hardly contain myself! She described, also, a cemetery across the road from her house. For a refresher, click on this link to read my account of last summer’s visit and to view photos.

Although Tina had warned us that the cemetery was overgrown with weeds, my husband Myron and I did not come prepared to hack through a tangled mass of raspberry and multi-flora rose bushes, not to mention pokeberries and saplings and such—all of it taller than our heads.

Two Harman cousins, Kitt Slusser and her mother also met us there. Kitt and I left feeling an urgency to return to clear off the cemetery where our ancestors lay. Many thanks to Kitt for actually taking charge and organizing a workday. Myron was skeptical about whether we could get it done in one day and I wondered, too, but our desire to be a part of the work motivated us to drive from Indiana.

After a few days of blue sky and sunshine and temperatures in the sixties, we woke up Saturday morning to skies the color of slate, pelting rain and a temp of about 50°. We pulled on boots and extra layers and took raincoats. Brrr!

Leaving our motel in Wytheville, we hoped the skies would lighten and the rain stop by the time we emerged from Big Walker Mountain Tunnel on I-77. It did—somewhat. The sky seemed brighter and the rain sprinkled instead of pelted. Maybe it was our high hopes, but I don’t think so.

By the time we arrived at The Quarter Way Inn about 8:45, the rain had nearly stopped. Kitt and her husband Jeff were already at work. We unloaded our equipment, handed it over the gate, the key for which could not be found, and hefted it up the hill.

At the entrance to the cemetery, a row of yellow daffodils smiled at us—a refreshing sight on a gloomy day. New life, promise of restoration, of resurrection, of joy.

Myron and Jeff, wielding chainsaws, cleared the perimeter of the cemetery first. As fast as they sheared off the briars and brush, Kitt, her sister Shannon, Tina and I could hardly keep up as we picked up the cuttings and hauled them to a burn pile. Shannon's boyfriend, Roger, showed up later and pitched in. By this time, instead of carrying every bundle of prickly sticks to the fire, we threw them over the fence, and Shannon and Roger threw them on the fire. As Myron and Jeff worked their way into the center of the cemetery, we spotted the sign hanging lopsided from one eye bolt—Harmon Family Cemetery. Finishing in one day looked promising. In fact we finished in four hours, and we were bothered only once for a few minutes with a light rain.

Thanks to Shannon, who insisted that Kitt stop her work to take pictures, our busy day was photographed. Thanks to Kitt for the photos.

The Quarter Way Inn viewed from the cemetery. Note dark sky.
The cemetery clearing task looked daunting, at first.

Tina, working hard.

Myron with his chain saw.

On overview, Jeff on left, Myron on right.

Finally, we get a glimpse of the sign.
Clearing around the sign.
Zola carrying brush.
Roger and Shannon burning the brush. Jeff taking a breather.
Zola and Tina, clearing brush.
After the work was done, I took a few photos of my own. The cleared cemetery's beauty was breathtaking.

Poor neglected sign! Kitt has ideas for a new one. I like this one, except the wood is split, so re-attaching the eye bolt would not be feasible.
Harmon Family Cemetery, sign
The earliest burial in this cemetery was most likely Mathias Harman who was killed in an accident on his horse in 1802, leaving behind his wife Mary and five children. He was thirty-three years old. I'm not sure which tombstone is his--many of the stones are unreadable. The tombstone pictured below belongs to Mary. She never remarried. It's actually easier to read than the photo suggests: "Mary, wife of Mathias Harmon, Married Jan. 25, 1791." No birth and death dates, only marriage--interesting. Kitt, Shannon, and I are descended from Mathias and Mary.
Mary Harmon's tombstone.
To compare, here is a photo taken only three years ago by another Harmon descendant that shows how much the tombstone has deteriorated in that short amount of time. Makes me worry.
Photo courtesy of Find A Grave contributor, "Mike."
Henry Harmon's tombstone is lying on the ground. It appears to have been broken and attached to cement to keep the parts from getting scattered. The clasped hands can mean unity in life and death or the last good-bye. Henry, Mathias' son, was my 3x great-grandfather and a brother to Jezreel, who was Kitt and Shannon's 4x great-grandfather. Henry's wife, Fanny Brown Harmon, is buried here, too, but her tombstone is probably one of the illegible ones.
Tombstone of Henry Harmon (1797-1878).
Nancy F. Harman Bales was a daughter of Henry and Fanny Harmon. Her husband William Bales was killed during the Civil War and is buried here, too. His inscription is on the other side of Nancy's marker.
Nancy Harmon Bales (1827-1889)
Jerome Bonaparte Harmon, son of Henry and Fanny Harmon, is buried here, too.
Jerome B. Harmon (1831-1915)
We couldn't read the tombstone below, but the heart design at the top is beautiful.

My great-great-grandmother, Anna F. Harman Waggoner, may be buried in this cemetery, somewhere. It seems likely since her parents (Henry and Fanny) are buried here along with two of her brothers, Jerome and Hezekiah, and her sister Nancy Bales, not to mention numerous nieces and nephews. Anna and her husband Jacob Waggoner lived close by in Bland County.  She died in 1871 giving birth to her ninth child, William. Little Willie also died about six months later, so he may be buried here, as well. Perhaps the stone below is Anna's. Or it could belong to Mathias or Willie or Fanny. I'm adding it to honor each of them whose particular burial spot is unknown.
Unreadable tombstone.
Despite our aching backs and legs, we left feeling satisfied for honoring our ancestors by clearing their cemetery. Now we have to figure out a way to keep it maintained. Kitt has ideas.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Clint's Ingenuity and Mary's Recipes

My paternal grandparents, Mary and Clint Troutman's personalities can be sensed from the memories their children shared about them.

“Clint was a farmer who used to say he was 'Jack of all trades, Master of none.'” Neville remembers. “He cut our hair, mended our shoes, played a banjo and taught us to sing. He had bees and knew how to care for them, so we had fresh good honey. My Dad bought us a phonograph with records of hymns. He taught us all to carry a tune. Only Verne could not carry a tune. . . . Dad made whistles out of small tree limbs, and he made small spinning tops out of spools. My father would always invite anyone in for a meal, even a man on the road, and he would pick up anyone on the road. One time I was with him and he picked up a man on the road with a pack on his back. I was a bit leery of him, but Dad said, 'I'm not afraid.' It turned out he was a scissors grinder and walked from town to town for work.”[1]

Clint and Mary Troutman, c. 1932, Winside, NE.
Mary was a skilled seamstress and cook. She also cared for a large garden and she enjoyed her chickens. To earn extra money, she sold eggs, not just any eggs to anyone, but fertilized eggs to the hatchery in town, for which she got more money. She valued education, and she made sure her children finished school. “She helped us with our studies.” Neville recalls. “Mother made pretty dresses for me and Virginia. Later, she made flowered dresses for Hazel [a cousin] and me. Sometimes Mom would give me a nickel go buy a very good coconut cup-like down-town in Winside.”[2]

Mary’s cooking made her children’s mouths water. To please Verne (my dad), my mother was always trying to cook as well as Grandma Mary. To children, I suppose their mothers are always the best cooks. “My mother was a very good cook,” Neville claims.

Even today, for our upcoming Troutman reunion in Nebraska in July, my sister Verna has challenged family members to bring desserts that would make Grandma Mary proud.

A few recipes from “Mother Troutman,” sent to me from Aunt Virginia must be shared:
Grandma's potato soup recipe is one my mother, Lois McIntyre Troutman, gave me when I was married. This is in my mother's handwriting.

This frozen corn recipe may be in Grandma Mary's handwriting, but someone else wrote "Mother Troutman" on it.

Now for the desserts! Upside Down Cake:

This Pineapple Fluff recipe is definitely in Grandma Mary's handwriting.
So there you have them: some of Grandma Mary's recipes for the next reunion.

[1] Neville Troutman, “Neville’s Memory Book with Virginia’s Memories of Country School,” compiled by Sharon Lamson, Troutman Family Newsletter: This One’s a Keeper!, 1998, Troutman: Family Newsletters and Other Historical Info, binder, privately held, Z. T. Noble [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE] Anderson, Indiana, 2016.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Virginia O. Nelsen, Rogers, Arkansas, to Zola Noble, 3 July 2001; grandma's recipes; letters from Virginia, box, privately held, Z. T. Noble [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE] Anderson, Indiana, 2016.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Travel and Leisure for the Clint Troutman Family

Travel was also part of the picture for Clint and Mary Troutman’s family. Of course the first long trip for the three oldest children was the train ride from Missouri to Nebraska about 1913, but even after settling in Nebraska, they continued taking shorter trips. “One time when I was a small boy,” Verne said, “I went to Minnesota on a train with Mother to see Grandma and Grandpa Waggoner. When we got there and started walking away from the train, I said, ‘We are going to walk home, now.’ My mother told me that, years later.”1

Virginia was included in that trip, too; her memories varied somewhat: “I remember looking out the train windows, as we crossed the Mississippi River, and being terribly frightened. But mother told us that when we went to bed that night [on the train] Verne looked up to her with his big blue eyes and said, ‘Mama, the kids don’t know we have a good bed, do they?’”2 According to Virginia, Verne was four and she was two on this trip.

Before Clint purchased their Model T, they drove to town in a wagon pulled by a team of horses. The Model T made travel easier for visits to family members in other counties. Mary’s sister, Amanda and her family lived near an Indian reservation in Thurston County. “Once we went on vacation to the Indian powwow at Winnebago, Nebraska, and stayed with my Aunt Amanda and Uncle Dallas and watched the Indians dance and cook puppy stew,” Verne recalled. “This was my favorite vacation, I guess.”3 Most likely, they drove the Model T on this vacation.

There are many details I love about the above photo, but the best is that my grandmother Mary is at the wheel. In front: Neville, Carl, and Virginia; in back: Clint, Verne, and James.

Fishing was also a part of the fun times: “We also went fishing to the Elkorn River several times. Once we went to Lake Andes, South Dakota and caught a lot of fish.”4 Usually, fishermen show off their catch with a smile, but the children in the photo below seem to be trying to ignore that big fish hanging from Carl's right hand.
Carl, Virginia, James, Verne, and the big fish, c. 1924.
 Short trips could be just as much an adventure as long ones. Once a road trip turned a little scary when a storm came up suddenly. “When I was small we went to Pilger one time in the Model T and stayed till about dark. Came up a rain storm on the way home, and Dad pulled into a farm house drive way of a corn crib, [and] put on the side curtains of the Model T. It was thundering, lightning, and raining. He put chains on the Model T and pulled the mud home. No graveled roads at that time.”5 The corncribs had a drive through so you could pull a wagon into it and load it with corn. That’s where Clint would have found shelter to put the side curtains and chains on the car.

Always a favorite was the county fair, not just the midway, but the opportunity for the children to show their 4-H projects. This was a vacation, of sorts, since they stayed the whole week to take care of their animals. “We always went to the county fair.” Verne said. “I showed baby beef calves at the Wayne County Fair and had the Grand Champion steer at the fair in 1930. We had a 4-H club and stayed at the fair and slept in the loft of the barn.”6 What fun for a kid to sleep in the barn loft! Maybe, not so much for the adults. 

Verne's 4-H calves, c. 1930.

Saturday evening trips to town were an eagerly anticipated part of the week. “Saturday nights we went to Winside and watched the people on the street. We would go to Fleers Store. . . .”7 There they could buy just about all the things you can think of that filled general stores, from candy and groceries, to clothing, to items for the home and farm. (In later years, Carl married the daughter of the Fleer store’s owner; he eventually bought out his father-in-law and modernized the store.)

 Sundays also were special days. “Sundays we went to church and when we came home Mother had a good dinner.” Neville recalls. "My favorite meal was fried chicken, potatoes, gravy, Jell-O salad and pie. I forgot a vegetable. Mother had a garden. We had green beans, peas, corn, squash, potatoes and sometimes my Dad tried raising watermelons. We went to Grace Methodist church in the country. We had Sunday School. My dad took us in a Model T. We had ice cream socials by lantern light. The homemade ice cream and cake were so good. I can still remember how good the cakes smelled. I remember my Sunday School teacher. She was short. One time she sat by me in church. I had grown as tall as she was. Her name was Mrs. Montgomery. On Easter we went to church early.8 Neville wasn’t so tall herself, not more than about 5’ 2” or so. (Her children may correct me on this.)

Verne, James, Carl, Virginia, Neville, & unknown in back, c. 1924.
 Cleanliness was, of course, next to godliness. A boy couldn’t go to church with dirty ears. Verne found out the hard way: “Another time we started to the country church. I was about 8-9 years old. Got up the road a little ways, Mother examined my neck and ears and put me out and I had to go back home because they were dirty. I was little enough I was afraid and stayed around the corn crib till they came home.”9 I wonder what it was about the corn crib that felt safer than the house.

Whether it was work, play, or travel, Clint and Mary and their children made life an adventure  on the farm in the 1920s in Nebraska.

1 Verne Troutman, “Grandpa Verne’s Story,” edited by Z. T. Noble, computer files, “Dad’s Story2.”
2 Nelsen, Virginia, Rogers, Arkansas, to Zola Noble, letter, 4 August 2000, stories of her life; Virginia Nelsen letters, box; privately held, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE] Anderson, Indiana.
3 Verne Troutman, “Grandpa Verne’s Story.”
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid.
7 Neville Troutman, “Neville’s Memory Book with Virginia’s Memories of Country School,” compiled by Sharon Lamson, Troutman Family Newsletter: This One’s a Keeper!, 1998, Troutman: Family Newsletters and Other Historical Info, binder, privately held, Z. T. Noble [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE] Anderson, Indiana, 2016.
8 Ibid.
9 Verne Troutman, “Grandpa Verne’s Story.”

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Fun Times on the Troutman Farm

Despite the fact that my father, Verne Troutman, and his siblings learned to work on the farm at a young age, they had plenty of fun times. And even work could be full of fun—or at least, full of mischief.

The children were not above playing tricks on their mother. Verne recalls, “When I and Carl were real small about 4 or 5, Mother sent us to the cob house to get cobs for the cook stove to burn. Carl layed down in the cobs and told me he was going to die. I went back in the house, so mother said, and told her Carl died and like to scared her to death. She ran to the cob house and Carl was laying there pretending dead.”1 Mary was none too happy about that. I wonder if the boys got spanked? Like typical children, they argued about who would do the dishes, but the water fights were the most fun. They ran around the house with containers filled with water and tried to throw it on each other.2

Most of their play times were outdoors. Verne’s “favorite toys were a bike, a sled, and a wagon.”3 The Troutman kids also created makeshift toys from whatever they found lying around on the farm. Verne recalls, “We had an old horse buggy that we stripped down and would coast down hills on it.” Also, “we made swings out of rope hung in a tree. . . . I never had any roller skates or ice skates, but we skated on the pond without skates.”4 Who needs skates, after all? Just slide with your boots. “In the summer,” Neville recalls, “I would wade in the water in the ditches after a rain. We had play houses. We marked them off in the grove, and when the corn cribs were empty we had them there.”5 Anything can be made into a play house if your imagination allows it.

The children also never lacked for pets. They always had family dogs and cats and horses. The animals were part and parcel of a farm. The cats lived in the barn and kept the rodent population down. One or two cats might have been tamed to hang about the house, but Mary never would have allowed cats or dogs in the house. Neville and her cousin Wilma sometimes dressed the cats in clothes.6 Dogs assisted in hunting and farm work. Neville recalls, “We always had a dog that slept under the porch. The cats lived in the barn. The best pet we ever had was a light yellow dog named Rover. . . . I fed him scraps from the table. . . . We also had a dog named Rex. He was more like a police dog. We would go out on the porch, Carl could yodel and Rex would howl. . . . . We had a pony named Brownie. He was very smart. He would stop short and we would fly off over his head. He could unlock gates and let the horses out. We also had a canary in a cage. Carl let it out and it died.”7 Verne loved his dogs, but horses were his favorites. Around age ten, he and his friend Richard Moses began their horse back riding adventures together.8

Verne, age 15, and Brownie, 1929.
Large gatherings of family and friends created special times. “We went swimming in Logan Creek and the Elkhorn River with family and friends in Nebraska,” Verne recalls. “Every year when I was a boy a lot of people who settled Nebraska from Virginia had a Virginia picnic get together. Most of them were from Grayson and Smyth counties. . . . On the Fourth of July we usually went to some town for a celebration, had homemade ice cream and so on.”9 Typical of all people who migrate far from their places of origin, the Virginia folks found comfort in gathering with their own for fun, food, and fellowship.

At these gatherings or during recess at school the children organized themselves to play games. Verne recalls, “Games we played included pump pump pull away, fox and goose in the snow, hide and seek, and ring around the rosie.”10

Virginia explaines the games in more detail:
Hide and Seek. During recess “there weren’t a lot of places to hide of course behind the school house, the outdoor toilets, the wood and cob or coal shed, the little barn for riding horses (some children rode to school) and a big boxelder tree.”

Anti Over. “The children were divided into sides. Side 1 was given a ball. The game began when one of the big boys or girls, or the teacher, would attempt to throw the ball over the roof of the school. When the ball was thrown, everyone on side 1 would yell, “Anti Over” to alert the team on the other side to watch for the ball. If the ball didn’t make it over the roof to the other side, everyone called out “Pig Tail.” When the ball was thrown over and caught by someone on the team of side 2, half of the team went one way around the school house and half the other way. The person with the ball tagged as many as he could that were on side 1. Those students then became a part of side 2. The game continued until all students were on one side or until recess was over. Our teacher often played this game with us.

Pom, Pom Pull Away. “The object was to run from the first base to the second base without getting caught by ‘It’ when he called “Pom, pom, pull-away, if you don’t come, I’ll pull you away.” Those tagged joined ‘It’ in the next shout and chase.”

New Orleans. “Side 1 decided what activity they would pantomime (churning butter, milking cows, frying pancakes, petting a dog, etc.,) and moved to the center . . . shouting: ‘Here we come.’
Side 2 moved to the center also and replied: ‘Where are you from?’
Side 1: ‘New Orleans.’
Side 2: ‘What’s your trade?’
Side 1: ‘Ice cream and lemonade.’
Side 2: ‘Get to work and show us some if you’re not afraid.’
At that time side 1 would begin their pantomime, and side 2 would try to guess it. If they guessed correctly, side 1 ran for their base, and all who were tagged joined side 2. If side 2 could not guess, they ‘gave up,’ and side 1 began again with a new pantomime.”

Shinny. “This was a (sometimes rough) game played by the older boys. Each player would search the groves or orchard for a branch that curved like a hockey stick. Both teams would have a home base and a lead-off man. In the center of the playing field, the two leads stood facing each other with the puck (a piece of wood or a tin can) between them. On the “one” and “two” they raised and clicked their sticks together. On “three,” each attempted to get the puck to his players so they could score (much like hockey).”11

1 Verne Troutman, “Grandpa Verne’s Story,” edited by Z. T. Noble, computer files, “Dad’s Story2.”
2 Neville Troutman, “Neville’s Memory Book with Virginia’s Memories of Country School,” compiled by Sharon Lamson, Troutman Family Newsletter: This One’s a Keeper!, 1998.
3 Verne Troutman, “Grandpa Verne’s Story.”
4 Ibid.
5 Neville Troutman, “Neville’s Memory Book.”
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.
8Verne Troutman, “Grandpa Verne’s Story.”
9 Ibid.
10 Ibid.
11 Virginia Nelsen, “Virginia Remembers Country School,” Troutman Family Newsletter: This One’s a Keeper!, 1998, Troutman: Family Newsletters and Other Historical Info, binder, privately held, Z. T. Noble [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE] Anderson, Indiana, 2016.