The Plowman Family: Lide Remembers Childhood, part two

August 13, 2009


In part two of Lide Remembers Childhood, written in 1924, Lide Plowman tells about childhood play and her brothers and sisters in their mid-1800’s home in rural Michigan.  The family tree chart is at the end of this post.

When Brother George came after four girls, it was a great treat and he was the idol of all, with his black eyes and clear white skin.  Nothing was too good for him.  Father made him a wagon with all the parts of a big one.

 Lute had for his pet and plaything an old root something the shape of an animal, called Thompson, who lived many years with us as a companion for “our punch.”  About that time we had a “pork sprout” (a little runty pig), which was also a pet, called Porky, which grew into a fine pig, but no one wanted to eat him.  These pets were as to Lute as Paul’s horse was to him.

 Till, Jule and Sate found much pleasure with their little families of home made rag dolls, about seven inches tall consisting of father, mother, boy and girl.  The house the top of a box about two feet square, with little rolls of cotton for beds to fit their size, and covers etc.  And these families were put to bed and gotten up in the morning every day while the girls talked and talked.

 Saron’s and my pet was the checker board, which helped us to pass many happy hours, only sometimes we were not good losers and had disputes.  At those times the board flew to the shelf, mailed to the beams, where things were kept away from children.

 It was from that shelf that I found Ivanhoe and Father Clement and Thaddeus of Warsaw, which I regret to say that I never read.  Father thought it a great book.

 I have been thinking much lately of the time Ezra left home for Gratiot.  Father had bought Ezra 169 acres of land from the government for $80.00 and with a wagon and yoke of oxen and provisions and bedding he started out to make a home for himself in the wilderness.  He was 20 years old.  Jon Hendernshott and Harvey Troop were with him.

 Of all the leaving home of our family, this seems the most lonesome and far away, although only 50 miles away, but at that time 1855, there were not many settlements north of Maple Rapids and no roads, only trails.

 Father made Ezra a black walnut chest with a till for papers.  The corners were mitered and it made a nice piece of furniture.  The chest was burned and father made him another, but as I remember it was not so nice as the first one.

 It was a happy day for us when Ezra came home on a visit, and the little ones thought candy grew on trees where he lived as he always brought some for them, and later that was not all he brought.  I think in about two years Barbara came with him.  She was about the size of Florence and was very kind to all the children.  Her nice dress was a white lawn with yellow set flowers, very pretty, and what won my heart, she made my doll a dress like it.

 Barbara with her father and brother came from Ohio about the time Ezra went north.  She walked bare-footed behind the wagon and drove a cow and calf.  They had to ford rivers and they were with one family when they upset and their baby was drown.  They lived at first in a shack with no frool and all their furniture was made of rough longs.  Her broom was also home made with which she swept the dirt floor.

 Ezra once signed a note with a man, who skipped off and left him to pay.  This was what put the mortgage on his farm and left Barbara without means in her old age.  They had no children of their own but brought up three, and no matter how much trouble they had they were always cheerful.

 Our brother Ezra was not to accumulate wealth here, but out of kindness of his heart, his help to those in need, especially to children and mothers, he had a mine of wealth stored where “neither moth nor rust could not corrupt, nor thieves bread through and steal.”

 I might say here that Ezra’s neighbors had moved from near Grand Ledge and made the trip home with ox teams, which was a slow way of traveling and our place was the stopping place the last night.  With one man as driver and all the women and children  a lumber wagon would hold, it would tax the bedding of the house to furnish a place for all to sleep.  We were always glad to hear from Ezra, and I think Father considered that as pay for all the trouble and expense.

 George was a baby when Ezra went away, so you see there was no time when all of us children were at home, only 8 at that time.  Charley must have married soon after Lute came, and Saron about the time the twins came to cheer our household, and how we all loved them.

 John Gensterbloom had been living with us since I was 12 or 14.  You may be interested in how John came to be a member of our family.  His parents moved here from Germany and lived near Mrs. Petch’s father, and John and his father worked for him.  Our father needed help as Ezra had gone then, and John first to work and finally to stay.  He could not have been more than 13 and was one of the family ever after.  After the three older boys moved away the children still had an older brother and I am sure Nora and Dora knew no difference, as he took care of them as any of the family.  He was always helping mother and arranged his work so he could go for Jule every week, while she was teaching in Bengal.

 Although we were 11 children, there were never more than 8 or 9 of us at home at the same time, but with Father, Mother and the school teacher 7 months of the year, we were still quite a family with plenty of work for all.

 Charley and Saron being our elder brothers were very kind to take us out when we had no other escort.  We had no theaters and moving pictures were undreamed of, but we much ___ the association of our schools. 






Plowman Family Tree

Plowman Family Tree









The Plowman Family: Lide Remembers Childhood, part one

August 11, 2009
Ezra Plowman and his wife Barbara.  Ezra was Lide Plowman's beloved big brother.

Ezra Plowman and his wife Barbara. Ezra was Lide Plowman's beloved big brother.


In previous posts, Mary Elizabeth “Lide” Plowman has recounted her memories of her father and mother in early rural Michigan.  In today’s post, written in 1924, Lide remembers her childhood, schooling, and her brothers and sisters.  As we have done previously, the family tree chart is at the end of the post.

As I look back over our childhood it seems like a happy family, with Ezra as a baby tender, singing in the big rocker with his arms full of children.  Charley as Mother’s helper and cook, with the other playing around, makes a good picture of our dining room.  When father and mother were away this plan worked well and I can not recall hearing these brothers dispute.

 The first real event that I can remember was when we went to a show of some kind in Lyons about 14 miles away.  I think we had horses at that time, as father had them the first in the neighborhood.  I remember nothing of the show but remember vividly of us loading into the ___ and of Till’s and my black calico dresses with red and black flowers.  We were about 4 and 6 years of age then.

 Another trip to Lyons was made with Charley and Saron and Till to visit Mr. Nettleton’s soon after they moved there.  Roswell, our boys with Charlotte, Jane, Till and I went to the river and into a boat which I did not enjoy, maybe the others did.  (I have been in many boats since that I did not enjoy either).  This was the last we saw of our neighbor girls.

 Charley and Saron took us to the last day of school at McVeys.  We sat in the bottom of the sleigh and near Thelen’s something happened, a tree across the road I suppose and the boys unhitched the oxen and in driving them away the chain caught on the iron on the end of the tongue and gave it a sudden jerk which threw Jule who was standing up backwards giving her quit a bump.  We left her at Nancy’s who cared for her until we came back.  The first teacher that I remember was a man, quite old, Charles Dear.  The only thing that I remember about him was that the children took goose quills to him and he made their pens.

 After him came Mr. Macumber who taught several winters, beginning in an old log school house.  While he taught our school, his wife a marvelous teacher, taught at the McVey or Boughton, where nearly all the pupils were Americans, and they had much to be thankful for having such a good teacher.  In all the teachers in the neighborhoods she was the one far ahead of them all, a live teacher.  It would be well for the future of the world that we had many like her.  I’ll tell in another place how I lived with her one summer and went to school to her.

 Mr. Macumber was a very eccentric man and a fairly good teacher.  He kept good order, but as our brothers were always good in school and the other boys patterned after them, it was not so difficult to do.  After Mr. Nettleton’s moved away nearly all the pupils were Germans and very well behaved.  I remember an expression that he used to use.  When he threatened to punish he would say, “I’ll puggle you.”  Around the stove were bench seats made of slabs of logs raised by legs in each end.  These were used by the younger children who could get along without desks.  Once Mr. Macumber jumped over one of these benches to scare some children (for punishment I suppose) and the floor broke and let him through.

 During Mr. Macumber’s reign we had our outline maps.  These were three or four feet square and hung on the walls.  There were maps of the world and of each continent.  We began with the map of the world reciting in concert and either teacher or pupil pointing to each place as named.  We repeated each item twice beginning —–

                Whole world 2 hundred million, whole world 2 hundred million

                Water surface 150 million, water surface 150 million

                Land surface 50 million, land surface 50 million (etc., all repeated twice)

                North pole, south pole, equator, tropic of cancer, tropic of Capricorn

                Arctic circle, Antarctic circle, north Frigid zone, south Frigid zone.


                North Am. South Am. Europe Asia Africa (and probably Australia)

                Arctic ocean, Pacific ocean, Indian ocean.

 Etc., etc., until we had covered each map naming the states, rivers, bays, straits, capes, isthmus, islands, mountains, and more etc.

 Next Henry Hall had a term and I think it was Charley’s last term.  I know the two were about even in Arithmetic and some problems were a puzzle to them.  That year a young German John Jonas, boarded at Grandmothers.  He was maybe 20 or 22 and had been educated in Germany.  Pete Bertram would translate the problems and John Jonas would show them the solution, which was quite a wonder to me.  He went to our school to learn English.

 We then had Mr. Tracy, who was a born teacher but not so well educated.  He was the one who taught us the animal rhyme, the rules for arithmetic and boundaries for the states, and also the Presidents from Washington to the 14th (My ambition now is to have some one of our rhyming relatives complete the list to the present.  Let us have it next year).

 The map “The stream of time,” which Rex now has, has been in the family longer than I can remember.  (And every time we go to Iron Mountain we get it out and I study it.)  This hung at first in our living room and we repeated the larger print, twice of course, beginning Stream of time, stream of time, or charters of, or charters of universal history, universal history.  This map afterwards hung in the girls bedroom and we often used to begin on it before we were up in the morning.  But the usual time for our “Concert Recitations” was after supper.  I can see us now gathering around the fire with the rocking chair filling up first, and a baby or two on Ezra’s lap when he was at home.  Then we repeated all the lessons and rhymes we ever knew, and we had exhausted the arithmetic and geography and sighed for more worlds to conquer, we would begin on

                Tuttle cracker, Tuttle cracker,

                Emily cracker, Emily cracker,

                Ezra cracker, Ezra cracker, Charley and Etc through our immediate family, the Petches and all the neighbors, until bed time.

 Another winters play when the older ones were seated around the table, Till, Jule, and Sate, (I always reading) played what they called “keeping house or working in a tavern.”  Mrs. Petch had worked in a tavern in Ionia, and had told us of the work she did and the ways of the house, and nothing more was needed except what their imagination supplied.  Their houses were furnished beautifully and there was no limit to the beautiful dishes and things they had to eat.  Each one working about and telling what they were doing. 

Plowman Family Tree

Plowman Family Tree


The Plowman Family: Lide Remembers Mother, conclusion

August 8, 2009


Today Lide Plowman concludes this installment of her memories of childhood, especially those of her mother Emily Crane.  Lide’s childhood was a happy one, some would say idyllic, but there was much hard work and struggle in pioneer Michigan.  The family tree chart is at the end of this post. 


Some of the Plowman brothers and sisters in later years

Some of the Plowman brothers and sisters in later years

Mother and Father used to make evening visits from one to six miles, in always took an ax along to clear the road from accidental trees and limbs fallen across the road.  I have a vivid memory of their coming home rather late one night, when the children from Uncle Sammy’s were over playing with us.  I stood between the window and door saying something like this, “Here I stand, beside the door, come and kiss me three or four.”  And just as Ira Crane was to kiss me, Mother’s hand with a dark glove on came between our faces.  Can you imagine the exclamations and running of a lot of frightened children?  Mother soon realized our fright and came in to assure us we were in no danger.

 Mr. Bower who bought out Uncle Francis Crane had three boys and they would stop in their way to school to warm themselves before our fire.  To plague sister Jule Mother would say, “John Bower has come to see my Julie”.

 She used her shoulders to keep her pins on and we children would reach for one she would always make a strange noise and quick motion of her head, which always made us jump.

 She was a woman who lived for her family.  No outside influences caused her to forget them and she always joined with them in a little fun or sports.  She was self-sacrificing, I remember as I was getting up to a young lady of her giving me a dress she had bought for herself.  Father rather objected to this.  She had very good taste in selecting materials, to get good quality, fast color, and pretty figure.  Aunt Ellen often spoke of the good taste she had in that way, and she also often remarked how nice and white her floor looked.  Mother did not mop everyday but when she did there were no dirty corners or streaks on the floor, but we children stayed in another room or out of doors until the floor was dry.  Now how do you think it looked after the night wood had been brought in on a cold, snowy, winter night?  You could slide from the door to the hearth, but that was unavoidable so it had to be endured.

 Saron and I took a great deal of pleasure in playing checkers but after several days we would have a disagreement, and if it continued our board went up on the “high shelf”.  A board as long as the room, nailed to the beams, which made a good place to keep things from the children, and was used for books and medicine.  Father lathed and plastered after I can remember and he had some difficulty in getting the plaster to stay on, as it persisted in creeping down.  After awhile we would have the checker board until it was taken from us for the same cause.  Ivanhoe was kept on this same shelf and when I could find nothing else to read they would get it down for me again, I must have read it as many as ten times, as well as two or three times since I was a woman.  I never could get interested in Thaddeus of Warsaw which Father thought was a great book.

 For papers we had the Star in the West, a Universalist paper, the New York Tribune, the county paper (first the DeWitt Republican, later the St. John’s Republican) and the Journal of Education.  The first three were weeklies and gave us much good reading. 

 I wish I could make you see as I do the old German tinker who visited us once or twice a year.  He was rather a small man with one leg shorter than the other and withered so that he had to use a cane.  He was dressed in clothes he made himself from skins of animals, sheep, deer and coon.  He had a coonskin cap, a sheepskin coat, and a fur garment for a shirt, with the fur on the inside.  His shoes and pants were also made of fur. 

 In the winter he had a cutter fixed up or I should say made with anything he could find.  He drove an ox whose harness consisted of rope, leather, string and a strap, he had picked up in his travels.  He minted our tinware as we had no 10 cent store to get new and throw the old away.  He usually stayed two or three days and it was as good as a circus to us children, for Mr. Medsker was as good as a clown.  We would stand around and watch and listen to him by the hour and he was very funny if things went well, and if they didn’t, we all kept our distance.  His ox and rig was as curious to us as wild animals in a circus and I think the children here would be as interested as we were.  His home was somewhere in Riley and he had two little girls.  One of them came with him once, she was rather good looking.  She had to sleep with Till, much to Till’s displeasure.

 The nearest doctor was at Lyons, but Dr. Hugg at Ionia was considered best but was twenty miles away in a new country.  I think he was with Mother when Till was born.  Later Dr. Seinol, a well educated doctor came.  Father had great faith in him.  He it was, who removed the cancer from Uncle Hiram Brown’s lip with a pair of dull shears, after other doctors had eaten it out and he had suffered a great deal and spent much money.  It never broke out again and he lived to be an old man.

 It was a great blessing to have a good physician only two and one half miles from us.  He lived one mile east of Westphalia, and was our dr. until the Civil War when he moved farther away and later went to the war.  After this Dr. Dellenbough came. 

 I hope you have not tired of these reminiscences as I have enjoyed it and Pearl has insisted that I put in many things that may not interest you.  She says next year it must be the children of the “House of Plowmans”.

 Hoping you may have many happy Christmases and that the New Years as they come may bring you many blessings. 

Plowman Family Tree

Plowman Family Tree







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


The Plowman Family: Lide Remembers Father, conclusion

August 3, 2009


Today we conclude Lide Plowman’s letter in 1921 in which she remembers her father and all the activities of her younger days.   The chart of the family tree is at the bottom of this post.


George Plowman, Lide's brother

George Plowman, Lide's brother

Father was a good manager.  I cannot remember the time when we lacked any of the necessaries, and we had many luxuries.  His motto on which we were raised was “Sell what you do not need to eat”.  So cream, butter and eggs were used as we needed them.

 Father was very handy with tools.  He and Sam Boughton made the loom which we all remember and will acknowledge was well made and substantial, also the warping bars and scarns (I cannot find this word in the dictionary), quill heads and I do not know about the big wheel and reel.

 The house was later lathed and plastered by father, and we had many things our neighbors did without.

 I remember when he took the last load of wheat to Detroit, driving horses, and received 50¢ a bushel.  He brought home worsted checked cloth for mother and grandmother dresses alike.  After that he could get money for it nearer home, so that the trips to Oakland and Detroit were visiting trips.


Sarah Elizabeth "Sate" Plowman, Lide's sister

Sarah Elizabeth "Sate" Plowman, Lide's sister

I went with them when I was eight and Sate [note: Sate was Sarah Elizabeth, JSW] was little, and I had a straw bonnet which made me rather vain.  Uncle George’s was our first stopping place and aunt Mary Brown lived three miles from there.  We had a horse team and stayed in Lansing the first night at the Old’s Hotel.  From Lansing on we had plank (1853) roads and had to pay toll before we could pass the toll gates.

 Father, aunts Eliza and Mary, had quite a good district school education.  He was much interested in learning, and had quite a few books and read the news papers thoroughly.  The New York Tribune was a constant visitor with us.  He took an interest in all the things that helped to make good citizens.  It was a great cross to him when the sight of one eye was injured by a wood chip.

 After that I read the papers to him, which was the year Freemont was running for President, and was beaten by Buchanan (1857).  I got my first taste of politics then, and like it still.  He was always school director and took the Michigan Educational Journal.  It was from this journal that he found the problem for me to solve, which was a study for me for weeks or months.  I give credit to father for stimulating in me a desire for knowledge.

 A hare to shun a gray hound ran full 40 leaps before the dog began.  And for her life so nimbly did she strive, that to his three leaps she gave always five.  But two of his are equal to her three.  To catch the hare, how many leaps made he?

 I finally studied until I proved he could never catch her.  But father thought I must be mistaken.  When I studied algebra I found they sometimes gave problems with negative answers.  I am sure this one problem helped me greatly in my study of mathematics.  [Note:  I agree with Lide.  The dog will never catch the hare.  JSW]

 Father had a great deal to do in running the business of the township.  I do not remember when he was not Justice of the Peace, and the office of Supervisor was about equally divided between him and Moses Bartow.  Mr. Bartow was a democrat with only a few republicans in the township.  But father had the confidence of the people, and many staunch friends among the leaders.  When neighbors had trouble and came to him to try the law on them, he would always talk to them and try to adjust it out of court, while the other justices enjoyed the lawsuits, indeed rather courted them.

 This has been all of father, as most of you do not know of the long ago, but mother would fill as large a paper with all she had to do and faithfulness with which she fulfilled her duties to a large family.

 She lived very near her children and entered into their joys and sorrows as a faithful mother should.  What pleasure it was to have her come out and play “coop” and “Hide and seek” with us.  She had great tact in making work seem play, such as running races at knitting and sewing, and seeing who could shell the most peas.  We were eager to work with her then, and it made work play when we were working with her.

 Our older brother have given her a tribute that any woman might crave, that she was a good a mother to them as an own mother could be.  And we younger children did not know the difference between them and ourselves.  No one ever had better brothers than they, and no mother had better children. 

Plowman Family Tree

Plowman Family Tree











The Plowman Family: Lide Remembers Father, part two

August 2, 2009


Today we continue with Lide Plowman’s memories of her father and life in the Plowman household.  If this is your first visit to this blog, you will want to read part one of this autobiographical story of life in the mid-1800’s in Michigan.  The family tree chart is at the end of today’s post.

Before I can remember, father built a large log house to accommodate the increasing family and used the old one for tools and black salts.  They used black salts to make soda and the like.  A shed on the east end of the house was a work shop.

 The first chimney was built of narrow flat split sticks, laid in plaster and plastered inside and out.  The jambs or sides of the fireplace, built of large stones, were about five feet apart, and spread out toward the front, which made a nice large place for the family to sit around.  The back of the fire place was laid up of stone.  The first hearth I remember was of brick, but at first it was likely of stone.

 The wood we burned would be a wonder to children now.  The body of the trees were drawn to the house by hooking a chain around the larger end, and the other end of the chain hooked into the ox yoke.  A 12” to 16” log chopped into four foot lengths served for a back log, while a log 6” or 8” thick served for a top stick.  This made the foundation of the fire, after which kindling was placed under, and smaller sticks piled between.

 You will wonder how these large logs were brought in.  We were never without a stout large home made sled with four posts.  The large log was rolled on to it and the stakes put in place, with one boy drawing and one behind pushing, it was brought in before the fire place.  Then with a boy at each end it was put in place.  Then another load for top and fore stick.

 The kindling was placed on “live coals” and the small wood put on top.  We never let the fire go out, for in those days we had no matches, and the only way to start a fire was by the use a flint or to borrow from the neighbors.  I myself remember going over the crick to Uncle Sammy’s with a little shovel to borrow fire.

 You who have never seen such a fire have no idea of the heat and light it afforded.  A candle was not needed to read by and we were all comfortable, if we were not too close.  I wish I could tell you the pleasure we had in watching the fire, seeing the flames and the sparks fly up and coals fall, and the many queer and fanciful shapes fashioned by it all.  It would take a post to do this justice, and we’ll let Till and Sate help us out.

 The great bed of coals served to cook our meals.  A long shovel was used to draw out enough coals to fry a large spider of meat.  The spider had three legs and set over the coals.  A crane hung and swung in the chimney supplied with iron hooks on which to hang kettles, for vegetables, meat and an iron tea kettle, when the fire was low the hooks were hooked in to each other to bring the kettles near the fire.

 Bread was baked in a tin oven set before the fire, and over the coals.  This oven looked something like a leanto, set back from the house, with a place for the dripper where the upper floor would be.  The bright tin of the roof helped to brown the top of the bread, while the coals browned the bottom.  This dripper must have been about 10” by 24” and was the one grandmother Plowman (Emily Crane’s mother) used for pumpkin pies for the boys, when Father and Mother went to Oakland.  I have heard Ezra and Charlie and Saron say they asked for a pie thick enough that when they bit into it it would touch their noses.

 I can just remember when father brought home the first stove.  I must have been about 6 or 7 years old.  This stove was never a good baker, so our bread was still baked in front of the fire or in the outdoor oven until the elevated oven came in to our home, when I was maybe 12 or 14.  Even after that, mother during harvest would bake 15 loaves of bread and pies in the outdoor brick oven, which had taken the place of the mud oven.  I wonder if George or Lute remember splitting oven wood for mother?  It was not a job the boys liked.

 Bringing in of the night wood was a job for two boys and the sled.  We had a shut-in stairway which was an unusual thing in the new country, as a hole in the chamber and ladder running up to it was the usual thing.  Between this stairway and the fire place was a space about 4 feet wide at the bottom and running up narrower.  I have no idea how many sled loads of wood it took to fill this space, likely one fourth cord.

 The fireplace was a cheerful, comfortable place for the family to gather to talk over the days doings, with mother and sisters knitting (mother did not spin and weave much after I can well remember, although Till and I helped her some.)  Father reading or finishing off an ax helve, of which each of the boys had their own, some righthanded, and some left, to suit the boy.  They were first shaped with a draw shave, then smoothed with a pocket knife, then scraped with a piece of window glass and rubbed with fine sandpaper until smooth as a piece of glass.  No one could make a better one than father.

 Can any of you remember our brothers sitting facing each other straddle a flat iron shovel handle, placed on their chairs, with a bushel basket between them, shelling corn (on the handle)?  Not for the chickens and geese.  Oh! No.  That was a daily job for the smaller ones; but to make meal for food for the family, and some of the animals.  (How I should like some for my Christmas present, we never have any now so good). 






Plowman Family Tree

Plowman Family Tree