Aletta (Teeple) Pennoyer
Mrs. Henry Pennoyer’s Story
Chapter 1 ( Pages 11 thru 22 )
After father procured corn meal for us he started with his ox team for Gull Prairie for flour and other things necessary for our comfort. Mother sent my brother Seneca, and myself, with him as for as Thornapple river to see if he got through all right as the water was up and the river unsafe to ford. We stood on the bank and cried and screamed with fright for the oxen did not like to go in the deep water and behaved badly, turning about several times. But he got safely across (after getting wet all over) and waving his hat to us he then pointed for us to go, and he went his way to be gone a week.
When father returned, after one of those journeys, it was a day of rejoicing. He would bring us something always. Sometimes it would be an apple which he would cut in as many pieces as he had children which would be six as early as 1840.
By this time six or more enterprising young men had bought land in Cascade and built their log houses and commenced clearing up their farms. They were all from old Ireland, hard working and reliable men. They kept bachelors hall but not for many years as the town will testify to this day. Father liked his new neighbors and helped them in different ways, which they very thankfully returned as a kind hearted Irishman can. The names of these men commencing with our favorites were: The Eardleys, four brothers. Patrick, Christopher, Michael, and Matthew Eardley. Edward Linen, James May, David Pettit, John Lovell and James and William Annis. Not one of these men is living, at the present time, but their homes are enjoyed by their children and their children’ children.
In the spring of 1841 father built a new barn (which is still a landmark on the old homestead). On April 26, 1841, born to Sarah and Peter Teeple, a daughter. They called her Amanda. Another little one to care for and now we were seven in number, five girls and two boys. It seemed much easier to provide food for us than it did to clothe us. Dry goods were dear and produce brought little, or nothing, now. Butter was worth from six to eight cents per pound and everything we had to sell was very low in price. We had to take store pay as it was all dicker at this time, and such a poor quality of goods as the merchants had in their stores then. The merchant at the present time would not have such in their stores.
The first time I saw Grand Rapids I was about ten years old. It was a great event for me although Grand Rapids was but a small village. The principle buildings, at that time, were the courthouse, (which burned down a few years after) the Congregational church, which then went by the name of Ballard’s church, Mr. Ballard being the first minister at Grand Rapids. A grist mill, the Rathbone house, a small framed hotel, and various small stores and groceries and shops of different kinds. A brickyard, run by Lewis Withey, on what is now South Division street, a small schoolhouse, a few good dwellings and a number of poor ones. And this is a picture of Grand Rapids as I saw it first in 1839, forty six years ago.
It seems to me, now, that father had more than his share of trials and losses. One of his oxen got mired near one of the Cascade lakes and injured himself so much that he died. We then had a horse and one ox. Father then got a mate for our horse, Jimmie. We called her Dolly and we children soon learned to love her, she was so gentle and kind. The second winter we had her she took the horse distemper and died. Father then saddled Jimmie and started for Plymouth where he got a four year old colt. Coming home he had to swim his horses across the Thornapple river as it was early spring and the river was full banks. He got home all right and cared for his horses. But in the morning he discovered his new horse had taken a bad cold. He nursed her almost constantly but in four days she died and Jimmie was left for the third time without a mate. Now we had to part with Jimmy for father started on another journey back to Plymouth to trade him for a yoke of oxen. We watched him out of sight with tears in our eyes for he seemed to be one of us.
Father got home with his oxen in time to do his spring work, but his trials and difficulties did not stop here. He had got his new barn enclosed and the roof on, had harvested his wheat (which was a splendid crop) and got it in the barn, when one hot day frightful looking clouds appeared in the west. Within a few minutes all was confusion for the most terrible tornado, I ever saw, came tearing along taking everything movable with it. I ran out to look for father, (as he was down in the meadow mowing), when I saw the barn roof lifted up and scattered over the field. Trees were falling in every direction and father was dodging about to keep from being struck by the limbs flying from the woods. The rain came down in torrents, wetting the wheat in the roofless barn and spoiling a good share of it, for the reason father was taken sick before he could take care of his wet wheat. We children saved some of it by unbinding it and spreading it around the barnyard to dry. Father was very sick with a fever and my brother, Seneca, and myself came down sick with the same fever. Mother tried to get someone to replace the barn roof but there was sickness in every house and no one could be spared from home. Mother had everything to do and see to besides nursing three of us, very sick. Dr. Sheppard was riding night and day to care for the sick through the country. We all recovered after a while but how I do not know as I was delirious the most of my time while sick. When father got well he soon replaced his barn roof and did things that laid undone during his illness.
In the spring of 1842 the neighbors came to our house to hold a school meeting for the purpose of building a schoolhouse. Within a few weeks a log schoolhouse was built and ready for school. Then a teacher was hired by the name of Sylvia Hill a sister of Perry Hill, a well known farmer living in Kent Co. at the present time, ’86. The teacher made her home with us and when five of us children started for the school we were very happy and proud to think we were really going to be scholars in school.
There were about twenty five scholars in the school and all went there to learn so we were easy to manage. We had, I think three months school, and then it closed for various reasons, Some scholars were too far from the schoolhouse and besides the house was not yet completed. But we had a start in books and we would read and spell at home. This fall, 1842, Mrs. Robert Powers, our father’s sister and our aunt Letta sent for our sister Jane to come and stay with her and go to school. She lived in the village of Brighton. Mother very reluctantly got her ready to go for she wanted her children about her where she could see them every day, but for all that she sacrificed a great deal to get her ready to go and when, at last, she took her leave we all felt very lonely. But as mother kept us busy at work the loneliness soon wore off.
About the middle of November, 1842, a snowstorm set in that never will be forgotten by those old enough to remember about it. I think I have never seen it snow and blow as it did, then, for three days. There was great suffering on the lakes, a great many lives were lost, and a great many vessels went ashore at that time.
Father kept busy all the time taking care of his stock and keeping up fires. There are but few, at the present time, who ever saw such a fireplace as ours was. The back was a thick stone work. They would bring in large logs on a sleigh made on purpose for that work and pile them against the back, three in number. They would then set the andirons against the logs and pile upon them four foot wood. In this way we would keep up a very hot fire in cold weather. And such a fire as this was kept up during that terrible storm. The snow was two feet deep when the storm was over but it all went off January first, 1843, and within a few days it came on again and was three feet deep. The weather continued cold the rest of the winter and spring. The snow was very deep in April. Most of the stock in the country died as the fodder was all used up long before spring. Father’s hay was all gone in March and he had about a dozen head of cattle. He would give each one of them a slice of salt pork and then drive them to the woods and cut down the maple trees so the cattle could browse off the twigs. We children would go with father and help him keep them in order. We would pick moss for the calves. We kept this up day after day and week after week until the latter part of April and then we lost two or three nice heifers, besides all of our young lambs and ten hogs. That winter has always been called the hard winter of 1843. It was a very hard winter but it was the hard times that made it worse. Produce was scarce. People had not got their land cleared enough to produce a sufficient quantity of food for man and beast. All our neighbors that had stock had to work the same as we did to keep them alive. Some of them lost their all.
The next summer all our young cattle that we had saved from starvation were out on the commons where the feed was good and they were stolen by cattle thieves or supposed to be as nearly all the young stock that was running at large disappeared at about the same time.
In the summer of 1843 a good deal of hard work fell to me as mother was not well and we had a large family. I made the butter from four cows milk, besides doing a great variety of work that has to be done in every family. There was school but mother could not spare me from home so I would have my book in some convenient place where I was working and steal glances in it occasionally and in that way would commit to memory some useful lessons. In the fall my sister, Jane, came home and then I went to school and made good progress considering our books were not suitable for schoolbooks. Our reading books were the New Testament and the old English reader which was too hard for new beginners.
School continued during the winter and spelling schools were all the rage. The teacher did not want other schools to spell us down. Some of us would take our books home every night and study ‘till a late hour. We succeeded in not being spelled down that winter by the neighboring schools. But I will confess right here that I have lost the art of spelling which this book will testify. The most enjoyable times I ever had were in that log schoolhouse at an evening spelling school. For the reason all would rise to spell down and every time three particular scholars would be left standing and spelling a long time after the rest were down. One of the three was me but I did not often come off victorious as the other two were more than a match for me.
One cold morning (January 6, 1844) I went down stairs and was greatly surprised to find a plump little baby wrapped up carefully and stowed away in the warm corner. I very soon found that the young stranger was my brother, and also that I would have to act as nurse, as well as housekeeper. My sister, Jane, went home with our teacher to spend New Years and had not returned. I must have done very well for a fourteen year old girl as no fault was found and for my faithfulness my parents gave their consent for me to go with my aunt Elisa Cook to a quilting. I was very green, of course, and I knew it. I wondered how I should act and what they would think of me. I was perfectly at home when roaming over the plains with my little brother and sister, picking fruit and flowers. I was very skillful in handling a skiff on the Cascade Lakes while fishing, and very happy while roaming up and down on the banks of the Thornappole river with the children I loved so much. We would labor to loosen a big stone that we would send whirling down the high bank for the sake of seeing it splash in the river. I would go over rail fences and through the bushes as fleet as a deer and sing as loud and joyously as the birds in the trees above my head.
But I wanted to go to the quilting even if I was laughed at. The quilting was at Mr. Jacob Pattersons, the same place where we stopped when we came to the Grand River valley. It was not the same house as they had a new framed house, now.
When we arrived they made me feel very much at ease, they were so kind and pleasant. Within a few minutes I was quilting away as good as any of them, and thinking it wasn’t very bad after all.
I learned there was to be a dance, in the evening, and there would be strangers which I feared to meet. When I spoke to aunt Lisa about going she said I must stay to the dance, When the dancing commenced I was surprised at the calling for it was all foreign to me, Father played the violin and had taught us children how to dance in a very simple way. But when I saw big folks scrambling about and a man screaming something at them that I did not understand, I was surprised. I was asked to join in the dance but refused, or course, and then Mrs. Patterson insisted on my trying it and gently forced me on to the floor. Greatly to my surprise I went through the dance all right and danced every set the rest of the evening. But I must say, now, that I have always regretted that I ever learned to dance for I was so much carried away with dancing that I lost interest in my books.
The school closed in March and sister Jane went to work in Porter Reed’s family at Reeds Lake. Seneca and myself helped father in the sugar bush. After father had made as much sugar as he thought we would use, during the year, and as his .work was pressing he told Seneca and myself that we could have all we could make. While the sap ran we went to work with a will until we made two hundred and fifty pounds which sold for ten cents per pound in store pay.
In April Aaron Brewer of the town of Gaines came for me to go and take care of his wife as she had a young son (Aaron’s wife was my cousin), so I mounted his horse while he walked to stay away from home for the first time in my life. When I arrived at my cousins a loneliness came over me that I cannot describe. To add to my homesickness it rained every day while I stayed there, but I went on with the work, doing the best I could, while choking back the tears that would insist on coming,. One evening I stepped out after some clothes and fell in an old well. It was so full of water I got out and went in the house dripping. When they found I had been in the well they asked me how I got out but I could not tell, for I never knew. The all had their remarks to make about the accident and then laughed heartily and I joined them.
After staying at Brewers for ten days I again mounted the horse, a happy child for I was going home. That ten miles was very long for I wanted to see mother and the baby and all the rest of the family. When I got in sight of home it looked beautiful to me just because it was home and they all looked good especially my baby brother Perry who seemed the least concerned of any of them.
Father made it convenient to take our sugar to town that Seneca and I had made. We both went with him. It was the second time I saw Grand Rapids. It was now a busy little place. This was the first time I was ever in a store and we had a lot of trading to do. Father soon made sale for our sugar and we soon got the worth of it in dry goods, which we very much needed. Each one of the family was remembered. We did the most of our trading with Mr. James Lymon on Monroe St. The store was a small affair, at that time, but his business grew with the town. After this trading we had plenty of sewing and then mother taught me how to spin wool., It was such lively business I liked it, and continued to spin until there was yarn enough for a large piece of cloth for flannel sheets and flannel dresses.
I must not forget to speak of my good aunt Mary Laraway. Their eldest son was kicked by a horse and killed, Still she came back from Plymouth and settled on her land and commenced making improvements, her little boys helping her in the summer and going to school in the winter. She made a nice little home, with her boys help. She was one of the best of women, good and kind and very ambitious, a lover of flowers. She lived, and died, at the home she worked so hard to make.
In the winter of 1845 I attended school but did not make much progress as we had a poor teacher. In the spring I set out to make my fortune by raising chickens and ducks. I had a lone row of coops filled with young chickens. The old hen was shut in and the young chicks were allowed to run at large, and with my constant care were gaining very fast. My baby brother Perry took a great interest in my chickens and was after them with anything he could hold in his chubby hand but I kept watch of him while home.
I had got my name up as a skillful spinner and Mrs. Fred March of Cascade engaged me to do her spinning, so I left the poultry business in charge of my little sister Emeline and went to my new work two miles from home. When my weeks work was done I went home to see the dear ones and also my chicks. But alas for my reckonings my baby brother had gone to war against my chickens and he came off victorious. Dead, and dying, chicks lay in every direction so I gave up the poultry business for that year. I spun Mrs. March’s wool and then Mrs. Barney Barton of Paris Township hired me to spin for her and I worked there until Sept. I enjoyed myself, very much, while at Mr. Bartons. There was a temperance lecturer going through the towns and speaking in the schoolhouses. Mr. B. was very enthusiastic in regard to temperance and so we had a chance to go to all the lectures in the evenings and Sundays.
I returned home the first of September. My sister, Jane, was at home and she and mother were very busy making up a piece of cloth they had just got from the weavers. I had not been at home but a few days when a Mr. Clark came from Ada to get Jane to help his wife as all his family had the ague. She would not go with him and so I went, but I little knew what a hard place it was until I got there. Their home was very small and there was a throng of big boys, all sick with the ague. There was not a clean garment in their house for they had been sick so long that everything was in a wretched condition. I worked hard every day, early and late, until things began to look a little tidy and then I told them I wished to go home. Then there eas a scene. Mrs. Clark cried and the three little ones got me around the neck and begged me to stay. My heart softened so that I tried it a few weeks longer. But I was very tired for I had had not rest, no pleasure. Nothing but toil. I rejoiced, one day, to see my father’s face. He called to tell me I must be home in one week as the school would begin the first of November, Then they all set in to tease but it did them no good, I had stayed with them too long and exposed my health by taking one bad cold after another and went home almost sick.
When I drew up with the family around that cheerful wood fire, again, it seemed my happiness was complete and the smaller children all told me the news at the same time. Father had killed a bear and a large one, at that. There was to be a man teacher and his name was Green. We had new neighbors and their name was Webster. They had lived in our father’s house until they could build a house for themselves. So the news was all volunteered before I had a chance to ask any questions.
I commenced school with the others but was coughing so much my lungs were sore and I did not feel much like study. Still I did my best to learn for I knew I was very backward in learning and when November twentieth came I was sixteen years old., Thinking I was not a child any more I thought I ought to appear like a young lady at least, I was told I was awkward which made me feel all the more so. I have wished, since, they had let me alone and let me be a child a few years longer for then I loved my books and was anxious to study.
In the years 1844 and 45 Cascade was beginning to fill up with new settlers, or rather the portion of Ada that was set off and called Cascade. A large family by the name of Clark, the Stewart Degolias, and others, came from the state of New York. Then came the Denisons, the Carsons and the Sealeys and numerous others followed them shortly.
The Pattersons settled in Paris, where they now live. They were hard working and enterprising, making good homes which they now enjoy in their old age. Our school district was in both Concord and Paris and the schoolhouse, on the town line, was kept that way for about ten years.
Now returning to myself and family. The fall of 1845, and about the time I was sixteen, my sister Jane went to Grand Rapids as a sewing girl, and when the sleighing was good Thomas Merrill, a young man that boarded in the family where she was sewing, would occasionally bring her home. One day in school it was whispered around and soon got to my ears that Jane Teeple was going to marry that Tom Merrill. I told what I had heard to my parents and they seemed anxious and uneasy and when Sunday came Mr. Tom Merrill drove up to the door with my sister Jane. Now this Mr. Merrill was a dark complexioned man. Some seemed to think there was a sprinkling of Spanish in him, but it never had been questioned until he commenced driving out with my sister.
After dinner he brought out his team to go. Then father and mother told Jane they wanted her to stay at home, so Merrill drove off without her. Then they had a long talk with Jane and it seemed she was quiet and my parents supposed they had put a stop to the matter, if there was anything in it. A few days after she came home there was to be a party at Ada. The teacher, Mr Green, asked Jane and myself to go with him. Jane seemed pleased to go and when I came home from school, at night and told her I could not go for I had such a pain in my side that I was not well enough she commenced pleading for me to go. She said I would feel all right when I got started for Ada and I believed her as I always did.
Well, we went, and I led on the first dance but when I left the floor I knew I was not well enough to be dancing. I went to the kitchen and asked Mrs. Withey, the landlady, if she would let me sit by her kitchen fire as I did not feel well enough to dance. I soon had a string of callers from the ballroom, trying to persuade me to go with them. But they little knew how bad I felt. I was glad when I got started for home although it distressed me to ride. Jane helped me to bed and told me I would be all right in the morning, but morning came only to find me worse. When mother found me sick she went to work. She knew the trouble was with my longs and treated me accordingly. When her remedies failed to relieve me they sent for Dr. Plat of Grand Rapids. He came in due time, and pronounced my case inflammation of the lungs. The remedy, then for long complaints was to bleed and blister but I was too sick to care what was done it I could only get relief. I recovered very slowly. It was weeks before I could sit up and then I was like a skeleton. But poor, dear, tired mother, how faithfully she nursed me through that sickness. Sister Jane, too, had done her part as a nurse.
One morning, in February, our new neighbor Mr. Webster called to see if we wished to send to town as he was starting for Grand Rapids. Jane asked him if it would be convenient for him to let her go with him for as her clothes were mostly at Grand Rapids she would like to go and get them. Mr. Webster expressed himself pleased with her company so within a few minutes she had on her wraps all ready to go. How beautiful she looked to me as she came to my bed and kissed me and said she would be back in a few hours. I have always believed she meant what she said but when Mr. Webster came she was not with him. She had told him she was not ready to come home, then, and he would have to come without her. I think father and mother had their suspicions that something was going to happen but they said nothing. The next night a neighbor came in and talked low to them.
There was a revival meeting going on in the schoolhouse, every night, and people called in after the meetings to inquire after me. Rev. Adison Ballard was our minister. He seemed particularly anxious in regard to the welfare of my soul and would call often and talk to me about my prospects in the world to come. He said a number had come forward, in the meetings, and experienced religion and he wished me to be one of the number.
After days passed and Jane did not come while I was wondering why she did not, mother looked up with a tired and worn look and asked me if I was well enough to hear some bad news. Then she told me that Jane was married to T. Merrill, the same day she left home. I felt it like a blow. Yes, I felt humbled and crushed. Not that I knew anything against Thomas Merrill but I did know how people would talk. After mother told me she wrote Jane a letter. A severe one, too, but she wrote just as she felt and then read it to me and then bursting in a flood of tears, threw the letter in the fire. She then went on about her work and after that Jane’s name was seldom spoken by her.
I was now getting better and able to sit by the window and do light work. Father was at work near the house digging a well with uncle Lewis Cook’s help. I was glad to see we were going to have water so handy. We had always brought it from a spring not far away. It seemed to be my work to get the water or at least I made it my work. When I was sick they found it was too much work to bring all the water from the spring and commenced preparations for a well which was soon in running order. I made myself useful helping mother when I was well enough. Besides we had four pet lambs that the ewes would not own and I made them my special charge, including the care of looking after the young ducks, chickens and goslings.
When the warm weather came I was again busy spinning wool in the log house chamber, by an open window. I would walk back and forth by the side of my spinning wheel from sunrise until sun down through the long summer days. I had stinted myself to do three days work in two days and I kept it up until all the wool was spun into yarn and ready for weavers.
Now, as the spring and summer, too, was wearing away, and work well done I wished, very much, to see my sister Jane. I ventured to let my wants be known to my parents and greatly to my surprise they did not object but were anxious to see me started. So one fine morning I set out on horseback for Grand Rapids which I very soon reached. I found my sister keeping house and apparently happy and contented. After staying with her a few hours I started for home. Jane and her husband came with me on horseback a part of the way and then went on to Aaron Brewers where he had lived most of his time when a boy and besides Mrs. Brewer was Jane’s cousin. When I told mother of my visit with Jane she seemed pleased I had seen her but cried and said she never wished to see her and said she was not her Jane any more.
In the fall of 1846 I worked for a neighbor, Mrs. Miller. Her husband was not much of a man for he was inclined to drink and was poor pay. But I went for Mrs. Miller’s sake for she was in need of someone to help her as her children were sick. One of them, a little boy, died while I was there and a little girl was born. They named her Lettie after me.
I stayed at Mr. Miller’s house about two months, working hard every day, and all I ever got for my work was a pair of shoes he made for me as he was a good shoemaker. But he did more promising than work in that line. He had a good little farm but he liked liquor too well to attend to it properly. His wife was consumptive and sick half of the time and he was too shiftless to pay help and the consequence was she often suffered from want of a girl to help do her work and take care of her. I loved Mrs. Miller and the children and I would often go there to work a week or two at a time when I knew I should not get a cent for my work., But they had a nice saddle pony and Mrs. Miller had a side saddle which was always at my disposal. I loved, dearly, to ride on horseback so occasionally I would improve the opportunity. Mrs. Miler died a few years afterward. She left two boys, little Lettie, and a girl baby younger than Lettie, which had a hard time until Mr. Miller gave them both away in good families.
In the fall of 1846 I found myself 17 years old. A new framed school house was being completed this fall. Mr. Ballard, a nephew of James Ballard, was hired to teach our school. I did not go to school this winter and I am sorry to think I did not, for I don’t think there was any reasonable excuse why I didn’t. It was an easy matter to find an excuse like too much work, some new dresses to make and would not be ready to go until after Christmas. But Mr. Ballard was a learned man and I feared him. He seemed so lofty and cold and so I put it off until I did not go at all.
It seems to me it takes but little to change a young person’s destiny. A few words of encouragement would have sent me to school, for I very much wished to get an education so I could teach. But had a foolish pride. I was ashamed of my ignorance and so shrank from a very important duty I owed myself. It seems my parents had so many cares and so many to do for they left me to do for myself and judge for myself, and a very poor specimen I was as I had not had a chance to learn the ways of the world. I think mother made a mistake in not wanting her girls to work out. If they had kept us in school as long as they could, and then got a place for us in a good family it would have been much better for us all. Father would seem willing but mother would not hear to our going away to do housework and felt that she could not spare us from home.
Mother was willing I should go to dances and would help me to get ready. I had plenty of invitations to dancing parties for I was a good dancer and never got tired of dancing. Would be on the floor every set until they broke up to go home. Father would much rather I would stay away from dances. I can see, now, that he was right. For I do believe I would have been a good scholar if I had not be interested in dances. However it was all the recreation I had and I entered in it with all my might. I was no flirt and do not think I cared as much for the boys as girls generally do. I was pleased ho have them wait on me for that was customary. Quite often I would have an opportunity to take one for better of for worse and as often I was frank enough to say no that I didn’t like them well enough.
In 1846 and 47 people were buying land in Cascade and Paris and settling on it and those towns were filling up fast. The town line between Cascade and Paris townships was dotted with new settlers for three miles south of our home, and they were a good substantial people that came to stay. Their clearing soon grew so large they could see each other’s log houses for they were men of toil and the woods were doomed to disappear.
Uncle George Teeple, about this time, traded his farm down by the Cascade lakes and on the oak openings, for a farm in the timberland that joined father’s place on the town line, where he soon made a nice comfortable home. But it was a hard struggle for him and his good wife for they had a large family of small children including a pair of twin babies which we cousins would delight to run in and give a helping hand to occasionally and which was thankfully received.
The winter of ’47 passed rapidly with me. I was busily employed at home helping mother and when I was washing dishes or ironing and so forth, I would be committing poetry to memory. I was very fond of poetry and I committed hundreds of verses to memory, some of which I never have forgotten. I made it my business, this winter, to teach my little sisters, Delia and Amanda. Delia was eight and Amanda was six years old. They never had been to school but had been taught at home. I took pride in my two scholars as they were learning fast and it pleased father. He told me I ought to be a teacher, saying I would succeed as a teacher. But I had the advantage over my two scholars for I loved them and they loved me. While I was trying to make it pleasant and profitable for them, they were anxious to please me and in that way they learned fast. They could read and spell well before they ever went to school.
During the winter of 1847, Mfr. And Mfrs. McClure had a very sick child. They lived on a hill one half mile from fathers and I greatly admired their frame house that looked nice, from our old log house, and I grieved that we could not have even as good a house as Mr. McClure. One night they came for me to watch with the sick child, (I did not know anything about thermometers, then, but I should judge the mercury was about twenty five degrees below zero). So I left the old log house fireplace, with its wood fire blazing high and bright, to spend a night in a framed house that was only a shell and only a poor little stove to keep it warm.
Mr. and Mrs. McClure were very tired from constant watching so they gave me the necessary orders in regard to caring for the sick child, and then they went to bed. I was very busy caring for the little sufferer, with its crib as near the stove as I could get it, but keeping the old stove red hot would not warm the room. I discovered I was getting very cold. I, then, began to lose my desire for a framed house. The wind was coming in all around me and through the floor. I feared my feet would freeze. I was suffering with the cold and when I thought of the warm, cozy corner at home I shuddered all the more. But morning came at last and I was thanked and dismissed. Eager to get home I ran all the way and when I got there I was plenty warm. It didn’t end there, however, for I had taken a bad cold that settled on my weak lung and threatened lung fever. Squills and blisters were soon brought in use and I was again on the sick list but not as serious as before. Mr, McClure’s little girl died and I did not wonder at it. I believe if I had stayed in that shell another night it would have finished me.
In the spring of ’47 the people living on the town line called upon me to teach their school, which greatly shocked me at first, but father assured me I was capable of teaching a school of that sort and advised me to try it. So, with my heart full of misgivings, I set out on horseback to teach school three miles from home. I was greatly astonished at my good success and became very much interested in the school. The scholars were mostly young but smart to learn. I soon found I had to study myself in order to teach them and keep well ahead of them. I succeeded well in this, which was mental arithmetic. I was very good in geography and spelling, at that time, and I enjoyed teaching it. When my first weeks work was done I went home very happy for in trying to please my father I had pleased myself. And besides, they were all go glad to see me and everything looked so good and cheerful in the old home.
I loved to sew and would take enough sewing with me to last a week to work on at night, and in the mornings, and in that way I did all of the family sewing besides a great deal of knitting. I think I was too anxious to be at work, all the time, for in that way I neglected my books. My wages for teaching was one dollar per week and I boarded around among those that sent children to school.
The three months soon passed and the parents of my scholars expressed themselves well pleased with the improvement their children had made in school, and hired me to teach two months longer, which I very gladly accepted for I loved to teach and loved the scholars. I also loved the silent three mile walk twice a week. Those walks never can e forgotten by me for the book of nature was open before me, and I a willing student. The grand old woods, I greatly admired, as well as the solemn shade underneath them. The tumult of innumerable insects was music in my ears, as well as the birds, singing their songs, and fluttering about in every direction. I would often stop to watch the busy ant and the loathsome spider at their work. But nearing the old home, there would be a greater attraction for me. Two little rosy cheeked girls with open arms running toward me to meet me a half mile or more from home and telling me all the news of the past week.
When my school closed in the fall they engaged me to teach their school the next summer. They had organized a school district by this time. If I taught the school, again, I would have to have a certificate and if I got a certificate I must go to school to prepare myself for examination. Mr. Royal Stewart, of Cascade, was our teacher that winter. I commenced going to school and felt very hopeful of success for I was doing well in my studies when the whooping cough got in the school. I had it with the rest of the scholars and nearly all of the school had it and it was a very noisy school. My lungs were so poor it made me sick to cough, besides I was eighteen years old and that is old to have whooping cough. I had it very hard but went to school when I could. There was sickness at Uncle Lewis Cook’s that winter, and I had to stay there two weeks, caring for the sick and doing the housework.
I must go back a little to tell of the holidays of this winter for I disobeyed my father and always regretted it, even to this day. Father wished me to go to school and let all party going alone, and I intended to do as he wished me to. When New Years drew nigh, my cousin George Cook thought I surely ought to go to the Ball at Plainfield. Besides they were going to have a big load of young folks. The Denisons were going and Helen and Olive were my favorites. I began to want to go very much but did not have the courage to ask father. My sister, Emeline, had been invited with me and she was as anxious as myself to go. When the day came we went to school but not to study for we saw cousin George on the way and he told us to be ready at two o’clock as he would be after us about that time. We went home at noon as we most always did, as the school house was quite near home, and told our grievances to mother. Father was not at home. Mother gave her consent to our going and said she did not think our father would care as it was holidays. I knew better all the time. However we were soon on our way to Plainfield with one merry party and still I was not happy. I knew I had hurt my father’s feelings and that made me unhappy. Father was always so good and kind to his children. I knew he would not rebuke me in words but he would look sad and keep silent and that would hurt worse than a scolding. That night at the party, when the clock commenced striking twelve, there were a hundred voices shouting in concert, “HAPPY NEW YEARS.” But it was not happy for me. That was the first, and last, dance we went to that winter of 1848. The latter part of the winter of ’48 I have already told.
In the spring I got my certificate and commenced my school in April, teaching about six months, going home every week, and coming back to school every Monday morning. It was the custom for teachers to teach every other Saturday so my going home would be every other Friday and every other Saturday night. On my way home, one Friday night in September, I was called in to uncle George Teeple’s house to see a sight. Three little babies at one birth, one boy and two girls and all of them smart and fat. Auntie was very sick and they feared she would not recover, so I had a chance to make myself useful, here, and I improved it for there was everything to do. Very, very small garments to make. Babies to feed all the time, night and day. There was also a pair of twins running around in mischief, between two and three years old. And there were five children older than the twins, the eldest being about fourteen years old. Auntie had been over burdened with care before these three little helpless babes came and now she seemed prostrated with care and grief.
I stayed with them for several nights as baby tender and they were all doing well and the mother improving. But when they were about two weeks old, a careless girl fed them sour milk and made them all sick. The boy baby was the largest, he got more of the sour milk than the girls and he died. The little girls were sick a long time but got well and they raised them. They were beautiful girls and women. One of them died when she had been married two years. The other one is living and is Mrs. Charles Spoldin.
I was hurried away from my school by sickness. My sister Emeline was a very sick girl, attended by Dr, Platt. Jane had not been home since she was married and I begged mother to have Dr. Platt call on them and have Jane and her husband come and see our sick sister for she was delirious with fever and we did not know whether she would get well or not. Thomas Merrill and sister Jane soon appeared and it seemed good to see our sister in the old house again. And mother was more reconciled after Jane came home. Their visits, after that, were frequent. Sister Emeline soon recovered and her sickness had brought a reconciliation between Jane and her parents.
The winter of 1948 and ’49 was an open, unhealthy winter, and a great many died of lung complaints, mostly young people., Father’s family was sick a good deal and the children were obliged to stay out of school on account of this sickness, I had lung fever which left me with a bad cough.
In the spring of ’49, Thomas Merrill and George Angel arranged their affairs to go to Grand Haven to work with their teams in the mills. They persuaded me to go with them, which did not take long, as I wished to see something beside Cascade and Paris. Although I had engaged to teach the school I had taught for two years, I gave it up to go to Grand Haven with my sister Jane. They came to fathers, before leaving, to see the folks and get me to go back with them to Grand Rapids, previous to leaving for what was called then, down to the mouth, - - in later days, Grand Haven.
I liked the looks of Grand Rapids, very much. We went upon the hill and looked down on the village. The view was so pleasant I almost wished I had not engaged to go down to the mouth of the river, and as we were coming down the hill I was wondering to myself how long it would take me to pay for one of those village lots, working as I was, for a dollar a week.
After all the necessary arrangements, packing and so forth we all went to the National to spend the night, a hotel kept by Mr. Smith. In the morning we were hurried off to the steamboat Algoma which had steamed up to make its first trip of the season to Grand Haven. It was quite an event for me. I had never seen a steamboat, before, and began to feel that I was going to see something of the world, after all. This eventful day was April 3, 1849. The Algoma groaned and puffed while it glided along down the river. I scanned the shores, as we passed along and was very observing on that day. The shores of Grand River, as they appeared to me, I have never forgotten. But when the Grand Haven sand hills hove in sight we began to feel homesick and Mrs. Angel really shed tears. When the boat stopped at the wharf, the town looked better to us than we had expected. We went to the Washington house, a large hotel kept by Mr. Middlemust, a Scotchman. The house was roomy, clean, and well kept. The tables were loaded with the best of the season. We stayed at the Washington house three days, for the people to vacate the house that we were to move into. I enjoyed myself very much for when my work was done I would ramble, with my new girl acquaintance, over those sand hills, ambitious to reach the highest peaks. The change, for me, was great this summer. From the little schoolhouse, near the woods, to the lake shore where we could see the boats and vessels coming in the harbor, and going out. We got acquainted with the people in Grand Haven and liked them very much. In fact I am happy for I was very ignorant.
There was a young man in town that showed me some attention. His name was Wm. Rellingston. He was German, by birth, had a good education and agreeable manners. He was very fond of music, was a fine singer, and his singing was greatly admired in the church choir which made him quite a favorite, especially among the young people. I liked to hear him sing, but aside from that I did not like him and would shun him when I saw he wished to make my acquaintance. But very often I would find myself in his company when I least expected him. At a boat ride, in the store, and often if we went to the hill to look at the lake, he soon would be there in our midst, chatting pleasantly and making himself agreeable to all. When he got an opportunity to talk with me he told his story in such a way that made me very unhappy for I did not want him to care for me, feeling as I did that I never could like him. But he did not give me up but would whisper in my ear, his grievances, every opportunity he got, until I began to think that no one else would love me as he did and my feelings began to soften toward him. Still I was not happy. I went home, during the summer, but I did not have the courage to tell my folks of him. I had hastened home to see a little baby sister, born July 31, 1849, and we called her name Frankie. The number of children in my father’s family was now nine, six girls and three boys.
The young people of Cascade seemed pleased to see me and got up a party where we had a pleasant time. One young man, in particular, of good habits and well to do, was slighted by me at that party when I saw he wished to be attentive to me. I went back to my sisters in Grand Haven after staying at home about three weeks.
I divided my time helping my sister and Mrs. Angel. I was handy at sewing or doing any kind of housework and I think I enjoyed my work. I was anxious to be a good seamstress and earn my living by sewing. But there was another planning for me and that was William Rellingston. When he got another opportunity he told me his plans, which did not seem unreasonable to me, and he persuaded me to think it would be the best for both to be married and settled. So in December 1849 we were married in Grand Haven. We boarded a few weeks and then went to housekeeping. Everything went smoothly, with us, until the next summer when he was having the ague every few days and he began to talk about leaving Grand Haven. He wished to go back to Paw Paw where he was acquainted. He had lived there and thought it was a healthy place. I did not want to go among strangers, just then. I had my reasons for it. He then spoke of Grand Rapids and I did not object going there. He then decided to go in the morning of the 12th of July, 1850. He kissed me good bye to take the boat for Grand Rapids to look up a house before moving our things. But the next day and night he did not come as expected. I got a letter from him within a few days and greatly to my surprise he was in Paw Paw. He asked my pardon and said I would like the place and people in Paw Paw and wished me to get ready to go to that place to live. He wrote a very kind letter and just as I was beginning to get reconciled to that, I had another surprise that took all my strength away. He was a member of the Sons of Temperance and was treasurer of that order. Some of the members sent me word that he had in his possession, about twenty five dollars that belonged to the Lodge, and that he must make it right at once.
I can never describe my sorrow at this announcement. I was stupid with grief. Mr. P. wanted the money to send to the Sons of Temperance but I did not have it. So I wrote to him, just as I felt about it, and what had been told me and pleaded with him to come back at once and fix up the matter. Then, and not until then, would I come with him, but when he had settled that up I would go with him wherever he saw fit to go. But when my letter went to him other letters went with it and some were threatening letters, too. It was told that he received the letters, read them in the shop, where he was working, and said “I have a letter from my wife, I must go home.” He then left the shop and that was the last I ever heard from him. Some busybodies would tell that he had been seen here and there but it was not so for when inquired into it amounted to nothing. I think I was too hasty in writing from the impulse of the moment, as well as the others that wrote to him, for his case was made out worse than it really was. Besides he was young and inexperienced, (we were both in or twenty first year) and I do not think he intended to e dishonest with the money but the course that was taken drove him to it. His pride was too much for his principle. I was in hope when he considered the matter his better judgment would bring him back.
Hope is a good friend to the afflicted. Despair and Hope fought a battle in my brain and Hope came out ahead by not until a great change had come over me. It seemed, at first that everything was changed, even the singing of the birds grated harshly upon my ear. And the grogs in the distant ponds seemed to be mocking me in their croaking. The sunshine looked dull, and the hills solemn to me. There was everything to remind me of Wm. Rellingston and also that he was gone. The books and papers that he had read to me, his sayings, and anecdotes, his hearty laugh and jolly ways, and rich, deep voice all seemed to be haunting me. I took my Bible that he had given me, thinking I could escape the torture that was in my brain, and went upon the hill to cool my craze tired head by the breeze from old Lake Michigan,. I gazed vacantly out on the restless surf for a few minutes and then I found myself sitting on the old log where Wm and I had sat so many times. While he would be reading to me, or planning for the future, I would be knitting and, Oh what a change within a few days had come over me. Yes, it was myself that had changed. Not the things which surrounded me. And right then, and there, I made a vow with my Bible the only witness that I would make useful to others as well. So turning toward my little home I felt better after my walk and rested that night for the first time since my trouble began over my thoughtless boy husband.