Aletta (Teeple) Pennoyer
Mrs. Henry Pennoyer’s Story
Chapter 2 ( Pages 22 thru 31 )
March 4, 1886
One year ago I commenced writing the chapter which I have just finished, which contains sketches of my early life. It may seem dry and silly to you, my children, but it is true nevertheless.
My first marriage must be a mystery to some of you. At least it is never spoken of in the family. If, in the future, there should be any doubts or disputes in regard to my first marriage this little book will explain all. People who knew me, then, are fast passing away. Many of my best friends have gone before me. In a little while I shall not be here. Changes in life are very rapid. You will notice it more as you advance in years.
Now I have commenced a new chapter and will tell you how I began life anew.
After a good night’s rest I did not forget my good resolution and I sent word to those ladies that hired their sewing done asking if they would please let me have some of their plain sewing to do. I was very much surprised to see what a quantity of work came to me. All I could do. I soon had money to save which made me feel quite comfortable under the circumstances, and my having plenty of work to do seemed to make my trouble easier to endure. Besides I believed in special providence and hoped for immortality. After carefully reading my Bible I came to the conclusion I had neglected my duty to God and was anxious to do my duty in the future as a Christian. I gave up the house where I was living and took rooms upstairs of Mr. & Mrs. Walldin, where I was still very comfortable in nice cozy rooms and plenty of work to do.
I soon learned that the very best people in Grand Haven were my best friends and they were the ones who furnished me the sewing. The Mrs. Whites, Mrs, Stroop, Mr. W M Ferry, and others. I never forgot my gratitude to them for they had made me feel independent and self supporting and that is what I needed at that time for my health was poor and I did not want to go to my friends. I did not want charity. I would sew early and late to add a few dollars more to the few I had on hand. But I was imprudent in my efforts and made myself sick by doing more work than I was able to do. Besides, there was a constant strain on my nerves for I was determined to check down my grief and not let the world know the depth of my sorrow. After I made up my mind that Wm was not coming back I did not mention his name to anyone. Not even my sister, Jane. And if anyone spoke to me about him I would say as little as possible and my friends soon learned to say nothing about him to me.
My sick days dragged heavily on and before I was really able to set out, I went one morning to visit my sister that lived at Ferrysburg. Thomas Merrill had moved to that place and was engaged in a mill owned by the Ferrys. My sister scolded me for coming. She said I looked sick and ought to be in bed. I was so tired I had to go to …. I managed to get home but not without great effort. Mrs. Walldin met me and helped me up the stairs and chided me for my imprudence in going off when I was sick. Three days and nights I suffered with a gathering in my face and I did not sleep a moment of that time. Then the Dr came and lanced it., A terrible discharge came out of my mouth which set me to vomiting and they could not stop it until another trouble commenced that was in store for me.
That night a little girl came to my lonely room, weighed six lbs, was plump and good natured. Her birthday was September 19th, 1850. I called her name Sarah Jane Rellingston. Sarah after my mother and a little girl friend, and Jane after my sister. Now that I had a little one to care for I was more anxious than ever to keep a home, or rather a place I could call home. My father and mother came to see me for the purpose of taking me home with them but I thanked them for their kindness and told them I was going to take care of myself and child and that if I needed their help, I would let them know. They tried to discourage my plans and told me I was crazy but they could not discourage me and left me, thinking I would soon follow them home. I commenced sewing for the good ladies of Grand Haven when my baby was three weeks old. I arranged my sewing so as to have some small work when I was holding my baby, such as stitching shirt fronts, etc, Sewing machines were not known, at that time, in Michigan, although in the Eastern States I believe they were coming into use.
I did a good deal of work that winter sewing by the week at a dollar a week. I would go to their houses, Monday morning and stay until Saturday night. In that way I was employed all the time, so the winter seemed very short to me.
…1851 Mr. Walldin’s family left the house where I was living…moved in. I at once asked the man if I could have the chambers…for them. They both…they did...they had no use for the chambers. They would rather I would…I said, “No, if you do not take rent I will move out.” Then they…I didn’t feel very comfortable about my bargain, but…poor and I wanted to…the chambers. I sewed for them for…it paid in advance….and I had to take care of her…the house work…she would soon be well enough to do her own work…get any better. They then got a girl to do the house…
…for that summer by staying there and taking care of…I was earning and saving all the money I could to buy a lot as I was…home for myself and my little one. Up to this time I had saved up…by fall, I would have enough to make a purchase…been told it was for sale very cheap, for cash, and…a corner lot and nicely situated. Now imagine my disappointment when I heard it had been sold for fifty dollars cash, while I was shut up with the sick and had no chance of knowing what was going on about town. I only lacked five dollars of having the required sum to pay for it and more than five coming to me from those I had been sewing for. Village lots, at that time, in Gd Haven was about a hundred dollars each. So you can see I had lost…bargin.
John and James Barnes bought the lot I so much coveted. They were twins and were then called the Barnes boys. James Barnes lives on the lot at this time.
One fine morning in June 1851, I got excused from the sick room to visit my sister Jane in Ferrysburg. I wished very much to see her and pour out my grievances to her. She seemed very anxious to have me go to see the folks at home. She said I was working hard that I might think I was doing my duty to the sick and that was alright. But it was not right for me to make myself and baby sick which she very much feared. She also wished I would spend or lend my money for was afraid I would lose it. It was the earnings of a year and I had often sat up half the night to finish up a garment and add to my little sum. And so I went back to the sick room much refreshed after a day’s rest and the pleasant interview with my sister. But I did not know what was in store for me. I expected every day Mrs. Scott would be better, but I was mistaken. There she lay day after day and no change for better or worse and they were quite poor and could hardly afford to hire me. Mr. Scott picked the wood, they burned, from the woods and brought it on a wheelbarrow to the house. I loaned him a cord of hard wood which never was returned to me. I neglected my little home up stairs to help them, even my housework, and it took me all the time to take care of her and her baby, my own baby being neglected more or less. The Dr said she had inflammation and had to have constant care and so she did, night and day, until she wore us all out and we had to get the neighbors to help care for her. I had the entire care of her young babe for three months. No one ever had ever dressed or undressed him but myself. I was worn out and tired out and my poor baby was sick. They saw how it was but had no sympathy for me or baby. All this time I had been very particular not to eat at their table if I could help it. There seemed to be something about her sickness that I could not understand. She had laid there in bed for three months and her face looked as fresh as a new blown rose, while I was a fright with my sunken eyes and careworn looks made so by watching with her night and day. One morning I told Mr. & Mrs. Scott that I was going to take my baby home to my father’s for a few weeks for she was so sick by this time she needed all my time. They were both very much shocked to hear me say that. They did not know what they should do. But I had that all arranged for I could tell them where they could get a hired nurse, but that did not suit for they would have to pay a nurse. Mrs. Parks, a near neighbor, called in to see Mrs. Scott and she told Mrs. Parks she thought I was cruel to leave her and the baby. Mrs. Parks came…told me to be sure and go on my visit at once. Said she would help me…But she didn’t tell me what Mrs. Scott said to her, but she told…the people in the village were disgusted to see me working so hard…when they knew I could not afford it. Some of them brought work for…I would have to refuse them for I felt I cannot neglect the sick. And…the Scotts took advantage of me.
…in August, I got myself and baby ready to take the boat for Grand Rapids. I then went downstairs and washed and dressed Mrs. Scott’s baby for the last…was watching me and she remarked that her baby was three months old…as much as undressed him. She talked as though I was highly…care of as nice a babe as her darling was. I then bid the Scott’s…thankful that all my acquaintances were not like them.
…Grand Rapids, and myself were the only ladies on the boat and for…waited for the boat to start for Grand Rapids and then we dis-…and were leaving the boat when the Captain told us it would start in…told me she would like to go home that night and wished me to go…We then went back on the boat and made ourselves and the babies as comfortable as we could for the midnight ride up Grand River. We placed our sleeping…one at each end of the couch. We then sat on the floor in front…them from rolling off the couch. Sleeping a little, or trying to, Mrs….was surprised to see me sleep so much in such an uncomfortable position. She…of my nightly vigil for three months. About two o’clock the boat stopped…at G.R. Dr. Charles Shepard, of G.R. was a passenger with us and accompanied us to Mrs. Powers home which was near or on the grounds where the Powers Opera House now stands. We then finished up the night in good refreshing sleep. The next morning I ordered rig and was driven to my father’s house, eight miles from Grand Rapids.
The old home looked good to me and so did the home folks. But I was so changed. Ware, and anxiety, had done its work on me. As I looked out in the great world before me, live looked like a tedious journey and I felt like a wary traveler. I recuperated some, however, in the old home. And commenced sewing for the children and making dresses for my little sisters, while they very gladly looked after my baby which was not al all well. My sister, Frankie, was then two years old, a mere baby. My sister Emeline was married to Charles Maben. My brothers, Seneca and Peter, were large boys and were helping father on the farm. Father was getting ready to build a new house and I wanted him to take my money and keep it for me. He said he did not want to hire money but Charles Maben, sister Emeline’s husband, would take it and pay me ten per cent. I loaned him thirty dollars which we knew was in good safe hands as he was an enterprising, hard working young man. Just such men as Charles Maben have made this country bud and bloom into beauty.
I visited my friends and acquaintances until I began to feel quite rested. I spent a week with my cousin, Mrs. Aaron Brewer, of the town of Ganes. Cousin Jane Brewer made my stay at her house very pleasant. In fact they all did. But I felt I must go back to Grand Haven and resume my sewing, so early in September I took the boat that landed me safe in that place. Mrs. Capt Chandler and Mrs. Waldren, saw me coming up the street and met me. They said I must stop with them, that night, and they would tell me all about the Scotts and that Mrs. Scott was still in bed, and those ladies thought she would stay there just as long as she could get anyone to wait on her. They talked very plainly in regard to the Scotts. However I called on the Scotts, that evening, and they seemed overjoyed to see me. Mrs. Scott was lying in bed, the picture of health. I could see they expected me to come back and work all my time for my rent upstairs. They had taken possession of my room and bed, which they said they would vacate, I told them I was going to stay with Mrs. Chandler, that night and they need not make any changes just then.
The next day my baby was very sick and needed my constant care and before the baby got much better I was sick myself. But I was not so sick but that I heard a young lady from Mr. Scotts, talking in the hall below, loud and excited. She was inquiring for me and was told I had a sick baby. “Well, you can tell her this much, if she does not come over, at once, and help us, Mr. Scott’s folks will not let her have those rooms upstairs this winter. They told me to tell her so.” “You need not take that trouble”, was Mrs. Chandlers answer, “for Mrs. Rellingston has rented two rooms of me for this winter”.
As soon as it was convenient I moved my goods into a part of Mrs. Chandler’s house. The house is now owned and occupied by John L. Davison, Washington St., where I spent a very pleasant winter with my baby that grew well and strong.
My work, this winter, was making men’s clothing for Mr. Henry Griffin’s store. Vests, pants and shirts. Mr. Griffin gave me fifty cents apiece for each of these garments. But the winter of 1852 was very severe and often I could not get my work to, and from, the store on account of snowdrifts and bad weather. The people of Grand Haven were quite gay this winter. They persuaded me in some of their entertainments but, at the same time, I did not get interested in their sports.
In the following March my baby commenced taking her first steps alone. She was one year and a half old, could talk and sing a number of tunes before she could walk. The children about town would come in squads to hear her sing. I was living a quiet and I may say, a happy life. I was making plans for the future. I bought a lot and a house to move on the lot. I was anxious to have a house large enough so I could rent a part of it for I was coward and never could have thought of living in a house, alone. The future began to look bright and I was happy when I had plenty of sewing on hand and it was coming in, as much as I could do. But there was a different work, for me, from which I was planning. (If ignorance is bliss, it is folly to be wise).
Mr. H. Pennoyer was keeping the Washington house. His wife, who had been a good friend to me in furnishing me work, was sick. She had a young daughter and had some trouble with her nurse and had sent her off. Greatly to my discomfort they wanted me to take her place. I excused myself in various ways, but it was of no use. The next morning Mr. Pennoyer came for me. He thought if I could stay with Mrs. P for a few days she would be all right. He said she liked me but she did not like the nurse. With reluctance I put on my baby’s wraps and Mr. P. took the baby and went on and left me to follow when I was ready. The first thing I did was to have a good cry for I did not want to go. After putting my room in order I left it to try nursing for a few days. It was a great trial for me to do for the sick for my baby knew nothing about being cared for by others. And she would cry and beg for me. I believe there are folks that try to please everybody and I believe, too, that I was one of that kind, but I am over it now.
One week passed with the poor little sick and restless woman and I was worn and tired. Then two weeks. I then asked for them to get someone else. I was afraid I would lose my custom in sewing. But they put me off on promises, until she got so sick I could not have courage to ask to leave. She was better to me than anyone that came in the room. Her little daughter was born April 8, and she named her Clara. The little one was four or five days old when I went to care for her and her mother. The fourth of May, 1852, Mrs. Pennoyer died, leaving four children. Their names are as follows: John Pennoyer, born at Muskegon, Mich., Sept 20th, 1839, Sarah M. Pennoyer, April 29th, 1841, Mary A, Pennoyer, at Grand Haven, Mich. Sept 23, 1847 and Clara Pennoyer, April 8, 1852. Harriet, wife of Henry Pennoyer, died May 4th, 1852.
When the last, sad rites were over and we returned to the room where Mrs. Pennoyer had breathed out her life, there was a scene that was very sad and very trying for me. The Pennoyer children had known me for two years and seemed to be fond of me, especially Sarah. Their father came in and asked me if I would stay with the children and care for them. I thought of my own quiet little home for I did not like the confusion of a hotel, and so I told him I could not tell him then,. The children begged of me to stay with them and they would help me to take care of their baby sister, that they wanted me and no one else.
I told Mr. P. of a woman in Grand Rapids that I thought could do better than I could. He went to see her, but she would not come. So I went on with my task, waiting for some change to take place that would relieve me from my hard lot. I soon found there was no limit to my work. I was going strong and was willing to work. I soon found I was nurse, seamstress and general housekeeper. My task was never done, not even at night for the baby was very worrisome nights. The house that I had moved on my lot I rented at one dollar per week.
After my husband had been gone one year and over I could see he had deserted me so I took measures to rid myself of him by applying for a bill of divorce which I obtained one year after I applied for it. I felt I was shamefully wronged by him by his deserting me as he did, and when he did.
The summer of ’52 wore slowly away for the children were sick a good share of the time. In the fall the baby had the ague and two of the children had the measles. John Pennoyer was taken in November with inflammatory rheumatism which laid him up nearly all winter. He was perfectly helpless the most of the time and had to be fed and handled like a little child. He was eleven years old. The children called me auntie and so did my own baby and auntie had to step lively for they were very sickly children with the exception of my own little girl.
Strange as it may seem they endeared themselves to me by their helplessness, and the little baby Clara, only one year old, would put up her little hands and call after me, lisping out auntie! auntie! After John was able to be up and around, teasing the little ones, then Sarah was sick with fever, then Minnie was sick. Before they got well the three youngest came down with whooping cough. It was in the spring and they got along very well, except the baby Clara who had to be watched very closely on account of her choking and that meant no rest for me at night.
Navigation had opened and the house was filling up with guests. I had to divide my time looking after the children and the housework at the same time. I did not have a minutes leisure. I could not visit my sister Jane at Ferrysburg I had so much work.
There was something on my mind that I could not divulge to any one and it was this. Should I stay in this family, always, or should I leave and go by myself with my own little girl? The children had all become very dear to me, now, and how could I leave them? They all looked to me as children do to a mother. Little Clara knew no other mother and she was always watching and teasing for auntie. I am sorry to say, even now, that I was not as much in love with Mr. Pennoyer as I was with his little family. And when I promised to be his wife I could not keep back the tears that would come. I was persuaded to think that it was my duty to stay in that family. Still I would think of the little cottage I had fitted up for myself and baby and almost shrank from the hardships that were in store for me in the Pennoyer family. The year I had spent with them was a year of toil, by night, as well as by day. Sick children and a restless baby had nearly worn me out.
I was married to Henry Pennoyer on April 14th, 1853. John and Sarah seemed very much pleased with their new relation and glad to change my name from auntie to mother which they would use unnecessarily often. Mr. Pennoyer had been talking of leaving the hotel, which pleased me very much, for it seemed like a hard place to get along with children. And besides, two of our best girls were going to be married. C. B. Albee was owner of the Washington House. Mr. Pennoyer owned all the loose property about the house, such as furniture and so forth. Mr. P. notified Mr. Albee that he would not lease the Washington House, again, and he, Albee, could find another tenant. At the same time Mr. P. began to look up a house for his family, my cottage not being large enough. The Barnes Brothers had a new house all ready for the masonry, which they would sell, or exchange, for my place. Mr. P. then told me if I wished to make the change he would make out a deed, in my name, for the lot where he was going to move the house, which he did. In a short time the house was moved and ready to be occupied. Then Mr. P. changed his mind and leased the Washington House for three years and then rented the new private house he had fitted up for his own family. So we were doomed to stay in the public house three years longer.
The two best girls in the house left to be married and their places were filled with inexperienced and careless ones. There were curious people in Grand Haven, then, as there is apt to be where there is any al all. And these curious people took a great interest in my welfare. They would call often and be sure to come where I was at work and sympathize with me. They could not understand how I could manage so much work. I could not leave my work to talk with them so they would follow me around, which gave them a splendid chance to look about and scrutinize every nook and corner. I knew their object and I wish, now, I then could have had the courage to tell them so.
I had a good friend, true and worthy. Her name was Orpha Cobb and she came from Fremont. She was a cousin of the Barnes brothers. She came to Michigan for her health for she was consumptive. She supported herself by sewing and she was disappointed when she heard I was married and would stay in the Pennoyer family for she had anticipated living with me in my little cottage. In talking over the matter, in a joking way, Mr. Pennoyer, and myself, invited her to come and live at the Washington. I was very glad to make her a home for she could teach me a great deal I did not know about the work in a hotel. I did the pastry work for the house, besides a good deal connected with the cooking. Mr. Pennoyer hired a man cook. He was colored and his name was William Penn. He was a great grumbler, which either caused merriment, or discontent, among the help. We kept five or six girls in the summer for there was more business than in winter. New help was most always a girl right from Old Holland, in wooden shoes, and short gowned and could not speak a word of English. Some of them were good help, some were awkward, and others were poor help. When the warm weather came on, baby Clara was very sick. Dr. Monroe was the family physician and watched her carefully and she began to mend, but oh, what a sight! A mere little skeleton. I carried her on a pillow for weeks and in this way I would go all over the house and look after green help and poor chamber girls that did not want to be neat. My own little girl was very little trouble with the exception that she would run away and make friends with every one she met. She knew everyone in town and everyone seemed to know little Sarah Relingston.
Now there were two Sarahs in the family. We, to distinguish them, would mention both their names when we spoke to them as follows, Sarah Pennoyer? Little Sarah Rellingston?
In the fall of ’53 John Pennoyer was taken again with rheumatism and he was a great sufferer for three or four months afterward. Miss Orpha Cobb assisted us in taking care of him as she was always ready to help me in any way she could. In fact she came to be my right hand support. She became my very dear friend and I loved her as I loved my sisters. Mr. Albee concluded to put on two large additions to the house which he did in a very short time. Mr. Pennoyer furnished them as soon as they were completed, which made a great deal of sewing. Carpets to be made, comfortables and quilts, sheets and pillow cases. We were very busy for weeks and had to hire women to help us. We furnished twenty new rooms besides refurnishing some of the old ones. We then had sleeping apartments enough to accommodate over a hundred guests. These were seldom all used except court weeks, then the house would be full to over flowing. I think this took place every three months. We would all have to work very hard, early and late. We could set the tables for nearly a hundred and when it was full we would all turn waiters at table.
When navigation closed in the fall, Grand Haven was quite dull and the young people would liven up the town occasionally, in the winter, by having dancing parties at the Washington House. The fourth story in the upright was an Odd Fellows Hall. There they could dance four sets if crowded and when supper was over they would clear the dining room where they could dance six or more sets. They would keep it up until two or three in the morning. After the supper was cleared away and everything put in good shape Orpha, and myself, would join in the dance, if not too tired. These gatherings were repeated quite often in the winter of 1854.
In the early spring the house was thoroughly renovated and the walls and wood work made bright with paper and paint. So the old Washington House was as good and well kept as any in the country, at that time.
In the summer of ’54 I had a severe sick spell which laid me up the latter part of the summer and fall. Several times, during my sickness, I would think myself well enough to be up and about the house and as often as I did that I would find myself worse until I became very sick, weak and nervous. My sister, Delia, then a girl about sixteen years old, came to assist in looking after the children and caring for me, or doing anything Orpha called on her to do, as Orpha had charge of the work while I was sick. Orpha had worked in a hotel and had experience and was far more capable of taking charge of the work than I was or ever could be.
In the fall when the weather began to get cool my health improved and I was soon about my usual duties. My sister, Delia, stayed with us to go to school. The teachers, at that time, were Mr. Augustus W Taylor, of Crockery Township and Miss Ruth Bro of Lamont. The people of Grand Haven were very much pleased with the new teachers. Miss Bro boarded with us and became a very intimate friend in our family.
In the winter of 1855, we had a full house nearly all the time. There was a company formed to build a boat, large and flat, to navigate Grand River and not get fast on the sand bars. This boat was not a success. Mr. Pennoyer had stock in this boat and consequently boarded the workmen. At the same time, there was another enterprise going on on the south side of Grand River. There were some men surveying a River Road and they boarded with us at the Washington House. So we did not get lonesome. Oh, no, but sometimes very very tired.
Occasionally there would be a ball in the hall, upstairs, and in the family rooms the bawls were too numerous to mention. Little Clara was nearly three years old and the worst mischief I ever knew. If she was crossed in any way she would scream herself hoarse without shedding one tear. If I left her with Sarah Pennoyer and she did not want to stay, she would scream until Sarah would bring her where I was at work at the pastry table. We would place her in her highchair and give her a piece of dough and a little rolling pin which would amuse her for a few minutes and the next thing I would know she would be on the table with her feet. After a few such efforts to amuse her I would tell Sarah to take her to my rooms and then there would be some more screaming, scratching and biting. Sarah was always patient with her and a great help to me in caring for the children, although she was hard of hearing and it was difficult, at times to make her understand.
Minnie, from birth, had been troubled with sore eyes and consequently had been quite helpless and petted a good deal. Her sister, Sarah, had been her faithful slave until I came in the family. I could not allow one child to rule another. Sarah was five years older than Minnie and Minnie had been allowed to order her about and when she would say “Sarah, take down your hair and let me comb it”, Sarah would turn to me and say “I don’t want to, she pulls so”. Then Minnie, with a few vigorous stomps and screams, would tell her she should. I would only have to say “No, she wont”. And so it went for a short time. Then Minnie left off her domineering ways and became a sweet and loving child.
I was tired of the children being sick, so much, and said to Dr. Monroe. “What shall I do to keep these children from getting sick so often?” His answer was “Go on doing just as you have done and they will come out all right.” Dr. was opposed to dosing children. He had talked it in such a way to me I never forgot it. I still believe the Dr. was right for the Pennoyer children became well and healthy as other children, excepting John Pennoyer who had inflammatory rheumatism about four months out of twelve and that, year after year.
Mr. Pennoyer was contemplating being a farmer. He commenced in the town of Crockery in 1850, letting jobs for clearing land. In 1855 he had built a good barn and other buildings. Also put out a large apple orchard, pears, plums, peaches and so forth. He had a log house on his new farm and hired a man with a family, by the year, to work on the farm and take care of things. The farm began to furnish the Washington House with vegetables and some grain.
Mr. Pennoyer also had a contract for carrying the mail to Manistee. It was the first mail route north of Muskegon and a very hard one. Mr. P. hired a man to carry it on horseback. The mail soon increased so he had to have another horse to carry the mail besides one to ride. One poor fellow lost his life on this route. Adolphus Berman, by name. In crossing a stream at its mouth the wind blew the scow out in the lake among the breakers an all was lost, but one horse that came on shore. The horse with the mail on her back, was drowned. Adolphus was a great favorite in our family and we felt his loss very much.
In the spring of ’55 business opened quite lively. The new boat was launched amidst a great crowd of spectators. When it slid in the water a flag was unfurled at the bow of the boat, bearing the name, Olive-Branch, and then people cheered. But they did no cheer the boat, a few months after, for it was so large it was clumsy and hard to manage. Instead of its paying its way it was a bill of expense to the company.
In the summer of ’55 Mr. Pennoyer’s father, with his brother Stephen and wife, visited us. Their homes were in Illinois, Cook Co., ten miles from Chicago. I was very much pleased with my new relatives and they seemed to enjoy their visit very much. We went up to Grand Rapids, with them, for they wished to see more of Michigan than Grand Haven’s sand hills. I enjoyed the trip, very much, for I had been home so steady with the children, and the cares about the house. After they had made a visit of about two weeks Stephen and wife went home, leaving grandpa Pennoyer to spend a year with us. He was a quiet old gentleman of about seventy two years. He was not fond of the children’s noise and so he spent the most of his time in the office room listening to the conversation of the men.
In the fall of ’55 Mr. Pennoyer spent the most of his time on his new farm where he expected to do some lumbering during the winter, which John Hopkins attended to for him. The winter of 1856 I had more liberty for the children were getting old enough so I could leave them. There were several sleigh rides which Mr. P and myself joined in the party, one in particular, when we went to Muskegon and back the same day. There were about 30 in number. We put up at the best hotel which was a few little old buildings stuck together and the partitions inside were rough boards whitewashed. However, we got a good dinner and then started on our way home which we reached early in the evening and Mr. Pennoyer invited all the party to take supper with us at the Washington and they all accepted the invitation. Then after supper, they went up in the hall where they danced until midnight. But those foolish gayeties passed away and then came the springtime to liven up business and bring the usual hustle and bustle that is common to hotel life, especially when there is a crowd of people expected, for they always come to the Washington with a rush. That was when the boats came in.
In the spring of ’56 we did not go through the usual work of cleaning, white-washing, papering, etc., for we were going to leave the house in July and move to our private house. I forgot to mention in time, that in the fall of 1855 Dr. Monroe and Orpha Cobb were married and went to housekeeping in good style as the Dr. was a man of money. I was very glad of this match for it was good for both of them. Orpha could make a home very pleasant for the Dr. and she was very particular and tasty about her work. He, in return, with his abundant means could supply her with the comforts of life. Orpha was consumptive. She had lost two sisters with the disease.
Early in the summer of ’56 we commenced selling the furniture in the Washington. The Holland people were our best customers. We put the goods down very low and consequently would not be bothered by their beating down and bantering. Six weeks, this sale went on, until the house was fairly stripped. I was careful to see that rooms were cleaned up after the goods were removed for I did not want the name of leaving a dirty house. I selected one girl out of four, and took her to our new home where we had plenty of work for her.
As soon as we were out of the hotel business, Mr. Pennoyer turned his whole attention to his farm in Crockery, twelve miles from Grand Haven, where he intended to move his family as soon as he had made the necessary preparations. He was very much taken up with his new enterprise. I looked upon it differently from the way he did. I did not like the idea of taking the children away from school. I had been taken away from school privileges when I was but seven years old and no schooling until I was twelve. I was fearful our children would share the same fate for it was a wild country, with but a few settlers, and they were scattering. The rough road, leading the way to the farm, was almost unbroken wilderness. I would sometimes accompany Mr. P. when he went his long, lonesome road, and I would get so shaken up I would not get over it for a week. But I found enough to do at home to keep me busy looking after the housework and doing all the family sewing myself. Clara was no less care to me, now, although she was over four years old. She would run away and we would look for hours, sometimes, before we could find her and when she was at home she would be tormenting the hired girl, or doing some mischief worse than that.
When school commenced in Sept. ’56, Mr. Pennoyer sent her to school but she would not stay at school. We would think she was at school and her teacher would think she had gone home and then a search would begin. Her favorite resort was to go down to the wharf and watch the men at work there. At home or at school she was a constant anxiety.
In October 25, 1856, another little girl came to our house to stay. Mr. Pennoyer declared she looked like her mother and ought to have the name and lost no time in writing it in the Bible, - - Lettie My Pennoyer, born Oct 25, 1856. She was a robust, healthy child and was but very little care for me. She seemed to sleep away through the cold winter and when the warm weather came, the next summer, she would tease to be taken out to ride in her cab.
Mr. P. was getting ready to build a house on the farm and brought a man to the house, Mr. Samuel Wilkins, by name, who was the carpenter he had engaged to do his work. So in the fall of ’57 the plan was talked over and settled upon and work begun. They soon got the house up and enclosed so as to do inside work in winter. The winter of ’57 would be our last winter in Gd. Haven and consequently we invited our friends to our house to dinner or tea, ten or twelve at a time as our house was small. Mr. P., and myself, was invited to return the complement. In so doing we had a very social time during the winter season, but it hastened the spring time that brought us near leaving.
Orpha, Dr. Monroe’s wife, was failing in health and it grieved me very much for she was my most substantial friend. It was evident she could not last long. I could not spend much time with her for I did no deep a girl to help me about the house, Sarah being the only one of the girls old enough to help and she went to school.
The Washington was kept by two young men, Jack and Alec Legget. Mr. Albee had newly fitted and furnished the house in grand style. To have it secure, against fire, he built new chimneys and had taken other precautions.
One morning, in June, ’58, Mr. P. was getting up his team to go to his farm, when he saw a black smoke rolling up from the washroom windows. He ran toward the Washington and shouted “Fire! Fire!” so loud he was heard all over town. It was confusion, and no order for some time until the flames got a start. Mr. Albee commenced screaming “Take out the furniture,” and others would say “Put out the fire.” As Mr. Albee owned the house, they obeyed him. It seemed too bad to let it burn for they could put out the fire if they had set themselves about it. Besides, it was carelessness that set it on fire, dirty cloths and hot ashes thrown together. They soon stripped the house of its furniture and then commenced taking off doors and taking out windows, also the banisters in the halls. And all of this time the old house was slowly burning as there was no wind at the time. The fire broke out at seven in the morning and the main body of the house did not fall until after eleven. And so ended the old Washington House. Several of the guests came home with Mr. P. to dinner and rebuked him, all the time during the meal, for leaving the Washington. They said his place was in a hotel and there he should have stayed.
Our house, on the farm, by the latter part of June, was so near completion Mr. P. commenced moving some things we were not using. In July, ’58, Orpha grew worse. One morning a note was handed me from Dr. saying, if you want to see my beloved wife, once more, you must come at once. And so I went to the house of death to see my dear friend breathe out her life there. Her funeral was held at the Presbyterian Church and her remains were taken to Grand Rapids cemetery to rest.
Mr. and Mrs. Ferry saw I mourned the loss of my dear friend and called on me, at once, to advise me spiritually and pointing out the way of salvation. The way they understood, advising me, by all means, to take up the cross and follow. I felt so unworthy in the presence of that good couple that I did not want to talk, so I kept still and let them do the talking. They wished me to come forward and unite with the church, said our leaving town, and going to a strange neighborhood, made it all the more necessary. And so they talked on, advised and persuaded me. At length I said I did not understand the meaning of the scriptures, although I have tried hard to understand and hoped I might be able to do so. Mr. Ferry was an earnest talker and every word told me he was right and I could believe if I would. At the next communion season I went prepared, and united with the Presbyterian Church and had my children baptized in that church, Jennie, Clara and Lettie. As their mother had been a member of the church, John, and Sarah and Minnie had been baptized before.
About the middle of August, ’58, all necessary arrangements being made, the last load of goods was on their way to the farm. Our family then betook themselves to our three seated rig in the drizzling rain, the first we had had in two months. After bidding adieu to Grand Haven, and our friends, we turned our faces towards our future home. Although we were going to a nice new house, I had a heavy heart. I was sorry to leave Grand Haven, but the children were delighted for it was quite a novelty with them.
I hoped for the best, that I might learn to like the place, and that schools would be started and it would be settled up and cleared up. Surely these prospects were flattering for the Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad had just been completed, and at our nearest R.R. station they had commenced a little village they called Nunica, two and a half miles from our place. The cars ran within a half mile of our new house but we could not see them, the woods were too thick. After a rough and tiresome ride we came up in front of our future home. We were cold, wet and tired and very much in want of something to eat.