The Plowman Family: Lide Remembers Mother, part two

August 6, 2009

 

Mary Eliza "Lide" Plowman

Mary Eliza "Lide" Plowman

Here is Lide Plowman’s account, written in 1922, of her memories of her mother and life in the mid-1800’s.  As in previous posts, the family tree chart is at the end of this post.

Mother occasionally had help for a few days sewing.  We had our first sewing machine, when I was perhaps seventeen.  Mother was glad if I ever made a dress she would not be ashamed to see me wear, I think I succeeded after awhile, as I began to make my own clothes at that time.  She used to make all the buttonholes but later I said I would never ask her to make another until I could make one as good as she.

 She was a good cook and always had aplenty, but people those days did not have the variety, they think they must have now.  It must have been some task to put up school dinners for six or seven, including the teacher.  (Iva, you have a good start!  Pearl)  But I think the children were used to eating what was set before them, better than now.

 It was a busy time in the home from one year’s end to another.  The butchering was a long two or three weeks of hard work.  Six or seven hogs to be tended on the first day; followed by cutting up and packing the side pork, hams and shoulders.  Then the sausage, trying, or rending the lard, watching that nothing spoiled or went to waste.  The hardest part was saving the lard the first day and preparing the refuse for soap grease.

 The children were always anxious to help and it was a picnic for them to blow up the bladders for balloons, and put corn in them to make them rattle, and also to roast the tails over the fireplace.

 Making sugar was another long, cold, hard task, both outdoors and in.  The sap was caught in a wooden spile, that Father made and run in a trough made from half a split tree two feet or more in length and hollowed out by hand.  They gathered some of it in large wooden pails.  They used a sort of yoke fitted over the shoulders with a string and hook coming as low as the hands, so they could steady the pails.

 The sap was boiled down in a cauldron kettle in the woods, and the syrup brought to the house in pails hung on the yoke.  We had to hunt all the pans and pails to stand it in to let it settle, then we strained it through a cloth before making sugar.  Each one who was large enough to handle a ladle, to stir the kettle, to keep it from running over was now standing around the stove.  (Before the stove came it must have been the fireplace, but that is beyond my memory.)  After the first it was not so much fun to help with the sugaring and it took from three to four weeks to make enough sugar to last our family throughout the year.  Later years Mother would buy a loaf of white sugar for extra, shaped like an egg at one end and flat at the other, but I must have been a grown woman before we had any granulated sugar, although we had brown sugar, called muscovado, before this.  Mother would let us have a dish of sugar the first kettle in the morning but after that if we wanted any we had it on a clean chip from the woodpile.

 Later in the spring there was the soap making which took perhaps a week, from the filling of the leach and running off of the lye to making of the soft soap.

 If one would pioneer now, away from the railroads with no autos or telephones, and could only get what could transported a hundred miles through the woods, we would begin to realize what it meant.  Besides making your clothes from cloth you had manufactured, and doing without what you could not raise.  This is the life of the pioneer!

 As I look back, I think we enjoyed what we had, and were just as contented as people are now. 

 Screens were unknown, so at night we gathered in front of the house around a smudge, made of fine chips from the woodpile.  The children ran around and through the smoke to keep from the mosquitoes and with no light in the house we could get quite a good sleep.  At that hour we had our play oh “Hide and Seek” with Mother playing with us. 

 You grandchildren can only remember Mother likely, as a quiet rather sober woman, rather stooped with gray hair, but I can see her as tall and straight with an abundance of black hair, and ready to talk and laugh and have a good time. 

 She and Uncle Lute Jones were always having a lively talk and joking back and forth.  His birthday came on New Year’s Day and they often visited us on that day, and of course he had to have a whipping.  One year Mother whipped him with a long sprout, which he took home with him and cherished as long as he lived.  Aunt Ellen kept it as carefully as he and often spoke of it to me in her last years. 

 Mother’s was the ruling hand as we all found, she was the one to reckon with if we were not good or transgressed the law.  And I being rather stubborn found it out more often than the others.

 Father never complained about the noise the children made, and there must have been some, as you can imagine with three boys, four girls with George, baby (Ezra left for Isabelle County when George was a baby.)  But let us start to quarrel and he would say, “Emily, can’t you keep those children quiet.” 

Plowman Family Tree

Plowman Family Tree

 


The Plowman Family: Lide Remembers Mother, part one

August 6, 2009

 

In 1922 Lide Plowman wrote another chapter in her family’s history as she recounted her memories of her mother and other members of the Plowman family.  We will continue to run the family tree chart at the end of the post to help you keep all the people in the story straight.

Last year I told you more of Father and now I shall tell you most of Mother, Emily Crane Plowman.  Father’s name was William Tuttle Plowman and he was always called Tuttle only when his nieces and nephews called him “Uncle Tut.”

 Mother was born in Orange Co., New York, father’s native county, in 1824.  After her mother Elizabeth Crane married Mr. Stidd, who was not kind to her, she went to live with Uncle Sammy and Aunt Sarah Crane.  She was then about three or four.  They first migrated to Ohio and later when Mother was about fourteen to Oakland County, where many of Uncle Sammy’s relatives lived.  Besides his sister, our grandmother, he had brothers Francis, John, Joseph, Aaron, Gilbert (called Gil) and others I do not recall.

 

Seven of the original eleven Plowman brothers and sisters

Seven of the original eleven Plowman brothers and sisters

They never had any children of their own and took another girl Arminda, who was younger than mother.  They were very good people but were not financially prosperous and always had a hard time to get along, but in spite of this they were willing to care for those who needed help and later took three other children.

 Sometime after Father came to Clinton County, Uncle Sammy and his brother Francis (Abigail’s father), came too.  They settled on what we know as the Trierweiler Farm and Uncle Francis just east of this.  Uncle Francis’ wife’s name was Polexany, Lext for short, and they ate off the same plate!

 When Father was left with three little children his sisters Adeline and Sarah came and stayed with him a year when he and Mother were married.  Uncle Sammy’s were opposed to this for Mother was only nineteen and Father was eleven years older, besides having the three little children. 

 The other girl Arminda married James Randall and lived in Ionia.  He dressed fine and was not a farmer and Uncle Sammy’s quite approved, but it did not turn out so well for he was not so good a provider. 

 Father knew that Uncle Sammy’s did not like him very well, for years later Mother and I found a letter he had written to Arminda, in which he intimated that he was the better man of the two and that Mother had not done so bad after all.  As I remember he had not written to make Arminda feel badly, but anyway it was never sent.

 After Mother and Arminda were married, Uncle Sammy’s not living alone, took his brother Joseph’s three children, Ira, Charlotte, and James.  They were living there as long as I can remember.  I heard that Charlotte was still living the last time I was in Ionia.  I must have been eleven years old when Aunt Sarah died, and they had no one to care for this family. 

 About this time they heard that Grandmother was living in Jackson.  They had not heard from her since they left New York.  Father and Mother went to visit them.  After Aunt Sarah died it was planned for Grandmother, her husband, and Amanda to come take care of and live with Uncle Sammy and the children.  He did not live long and left the forty acres and house to Grandmother, and the forty acres across the road from Father’s farm to the three children, Ira, Charlotte, and James who then went to Ionia where Uncle Francis and other Crane relatives lived.  Mother’s uncles lived in Oakland, a large family of them.  I remember best Uncle John.  We children always called him the rich uncle, with his stovepipe hat and his broadcloth cutaway coat.  He was taken sick at Uncle Sammy’s and died there.  His children as many as nine or ten came to see him and care for him.  They were much at our house as we had more room and Father was a good provider.

 Father and Mother were what we would call thrifty, as they never spent more than they made and accumulated more, so that in later years they had aplenty, although both had been brought up without any extras. 

 It must have been a great change for Mother from a family of four with three women to a family of five with one woman and three little children.  I never heard her complain as the family increased and the added work came to her.  The house was no larger than Uncle Sammy’s, but they soon had a new one with more conveniences with means to furnish what was needed.  They lived in this good log house, which was lathed and plastered on the inside (which was very unusual in those days) until Uncle John Benedict built the new house soon after the Civil War, and is the house which stands on the old farm now.

 When we think of the spinning, weaving, knitting, making, and cooking for the ever increasing family we wonder how one could do it all, and board the teacher too.  Not to speak of the peddlers and tramps who happened along, for Father could never turn anyone away and Mother never complained even when Mr. Slocum came and camped down for three weeks, until I told Father if he didn’t tell him to go I would.  I was about fifteen then.  Then he went to Uncle Ed’s but he sent him on the same night knowing that he was shiftless and would not work.

 The work in such a family as we has kept a woman busy most of the time, where everything we wore was made at home. 

 The things I remember must be about fifteen years after Father came to Clinton County when I was about seven and older.

 We had a hand machine for breaking the flax, a hatchel for removing the straw, and a small wheel for spinning the flax.  But after, I remember, Mother did not weave linen cloth, such as she wore when she was a child.  It might have been she hated it so herself that she could not punish any of us by making us wear it.  She must have gotten the cotton cloth from Detroit and later from DeWitt, Portland, Lyons, or Ionia.

 But she did spin and weave wool cut from our own sheep.  We often had the yarn spun by the McVeigh girls, but Mother wove it, as Till and I are good witnesses, for we handled the piece in as we called it, when Mother drew one thread in at a time in the harnass which took us about half a day.  And we had to keep our eyes right on the threads and watch out for what we called flats; as it made a poor streak in the goods. 

 Then when Mother had it ready to weave, we had to fill the quills.  If this skein of yarn ran smoothly and no snarls in it, it was not much trouble.  The quills were about five inches long, made from elder stalks with the pith cleaned out.  We must have had from fifty to a hundred of these quills so she need not have to wait.  Ezra and Charlie must have helped Mother before we were old enough.  When the quills were most empty we were called to fill them again.  All the yarn used in weaving the cloth had to be wound on these quills, some work you see, for little children.

 This woolen cloth was used to make all the men’s suits, good and everyday, some of the girls clothes, and for bed blankets.  We always had home woven petticoats until I was about sixteen, when we made the last ones for all the girls, called “balmorals” and they were very pretty indeed.  I cannot remember many woolen dresses that I wore of Mother’s weaving.

It was no small job just to spin and knit stockings for such a large family.  We made stockings for Father as long as he lived and he wore long ones too.  I think I must have been twelve years old before I had my first pair of stockings from the store. 

Plowman Family Tree

Plowman Family Tree

 


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