Married Sister “Taking Care” of Family

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, June 11, 1913:  Besse came out this evening to stay overnight and take care of us for Pop was away.

Besse (Muffly) Hester

Besse (Muffly) Hester

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Where did Grandma’s father go? . . . and why? Farmers generally stay pretty close to home—especially during the busy planting and harvesting seasons.

Besse was Grandma’s oldest sister. She was married and lived in the nearby town of Watsontown.

Why did the family need to be cared for when their father was gone? Grandma was 18-years-old and her mother probably was also at home (at least the entry doesn’t indicate that she went anywhere).  Seven-year-old Jimmie was the only person who seems like he may have needed any care–but I don’t picture that her father was generally very involved in taking care of him.

You’d think that two adult women won’t need another one to take care of them.

Maybe what Grandma really meant was that Besse came out to help with all of the farm work. The diary entry two days ago said that Grandma’s sister Ruth had gone on a trip to Washington, DC, so the farm was short-handed by two people .

34 Responses

  1. Maybe her Mother was taking care of the farm chores since she would know the routine and Besse was taking care of the house work and cooking.

  2. Yes I think they would be in need of a helping hand if the man of the house/farm was away..

  3. It also reminds of an episode in Laura Wilder’s ‘Farmer Boy’ when Almanzo’s parents go for a little holiday to family during the summer, when everything was growing well on the lands and harvest was not there yet. The children had to take care of the farm themselves..they could have used a supervising aunt.

  4. It definitely sounds like there was always much to do and being short handed would not be a good thing! My father was left to care for the family and the farm at the tender age of 13 when his father had passed away and his brothers were both off at war. I am always amazed at how much our ancestors had to do!

    • Whew, your father had to grow up fast. It’s amazing how young teen-agers were saddled with major responsibilities in years gone by.

  5. I agree, if the farm was short-handed by two people the family would need a lot of help with the chores! But I wonder where on earth Pop had to go…

  6. Who took care of poor Besse’s husband?? haha I don’t think a lot of men cooked back then…. ;)

    • Interesting question. . Besse’s husband was a butcher, so he would have had lots of food, but in that era it probably was a stretch to expect him to cook it.. . . . Another thought. I think that the husband’s parents also lived in the same town. Maybe he went home to his mom to get his meals. :)

  7. I like your idea that Helena would refer to the farm and its needs as “us”. That rings true to me.

  8. I agree that the extra hand was probably needed and very welcome.

  9. Didn’t she know her granddaughter was going to have to interpret her entries and provide context accordingly? haha

  10. I find it so enjoyable to read as you tease out and solve or speculate on the little mysteries in what Helena has left unsaid. It must have been so self-evident to her what she meant as she wrote it down; she felt no need to elaborate. I imagine she would be completely perplexed that someone would have to decipher her words years later.

    • She would have been absolutely amazed that we’re trying to decipher the meaning of her words a hundred years later. In her quiet way, I want to think that she would be pleased that we enjoy the words she wrote so long ago.

  11. My thought about Pop going away – often to purchase a breeding animal of top quality or attend an auction where perhaps a better price could be obtained, a farmer would travel a greater distance than they otherwise would without their family. Additionally, as new crops were introduced to areas, farmers often would go to the originating source to learn how best to sow seeds and tend to the crop until harvest to obtain the best yield.

    • You might be right. This was an era when farmers were really embracing scientific agriculture. The research and extension programs at the land grant colleges were really strong, and farmers were really interested in learning how to improve their farming practices.

  12. I’m thinking that maybe Miss Muffly’s comment was rather “tongue in cheek” re: that they would need to be taken care of… when actually she really meant helping out around the farm.
    Only a thought, but she does have a rather lively sense of humour ;-)

  13. Farming shorthanded must have been a torturous thing, so your grandma’s sister was surely called in to keep things going smoothly. Interesting the questions we have 100 years later due to gaps in diary explanations. Your research for other posts helps close some of the gaps though and that’s why your blog is so fascinating.

    • You’re right–both then and now, farming shorthanded is really hard. Some much of farm work is very time sensitive.

      Thanks for the nice note. I have a lot of fun pulling this blog together.

  14. I love the feedback you get, Sheryl. Often a history lesson can be found in the comment secton!

    • I am very fortunate to have wonderful readers who leave thoughtful comments. Thank you!. . . and all of the others who comment!

  15. Maybe with pop gone, your great grandma had to do more outside chores than usual and Besse came to cook and housekeep etc. I’m sure there was no end of the work needing done.

  16. […] The previous day Grandma wrote that her father was away and that her married sister Ruth had come out to “help take care of us for Pop was away.” […]

  17. Finally, she mentions her dad!

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