Found photos of Ruth, Bill, Jimmie, Rachel, and Blanche!!

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

Wednesday, June 7, 1911: Can take a rest now since the hurrying, scurrying has subsided in part.

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

A hundred years ago today was the day after a big event. The previous day, the addition to the Muffly barn was raised.

Since this entry doesn’t take much explanation, I’m going to share some photos of five people mentioned in the diary that I didn’t previously have photos of.  As I’ve worked on this blog, I’ve so often wondered what Grandma’s sister Ruth (and to a lesser extent the others) looked like. Now I know.

Lois Everitt recently shared her copy of an awesome book with me: The History of McEwensville Schools: 1800-1958 by Thomas S. Kramm. The book contained photos of Grandma’s sister Ruth, her brother Jimmie, her friends Rachel Oakes and Blanche Bryson, and Ruth’s future husband Bill (Willliam) Gauger. I contacted Mr. Kramm and he very generously allowed me to include the photos in this blog. (Lois and Tom—Thank you!! I couldn’t do this blog without wonderful people like you sharing materials and information with me. )

Now the photos:

Grandma's sister: Ruth Muffly (1913)

Ruth's future husband: Bill (William) Gauger (1913)

Grandma's brother: Jimmie Muffly (1915)

Grandma's friend; Rachel Oakes (1913)

Grandma's friend, Blanche Bryson (1913)

Ruth, Rachel, Blanche, and Bill  were teachers. Rachel was the elementary teacher at McEwensville. Ruth and Blanche were teachers at one-room school houses in the surrounding area. Bill was the teacher at McEwensville High School from 1913-15. A hundred years ago teachers were not required to have college degrees. For example, Ruth graduated from McEwensville High School in spring 1911—and she was already teaching elementary school by Fall 1911.

The picture of Jimmie is from a 1915 school photo of students at McEwensville School.

I’ve also added these photos to the People page.

It feels good to be able to cross five names off my list of photos that I’m searching for–though the quest never quite ends. I’m still looking for photos of Grandma’s father (Alfred Muffly), her oldest sister (Besse Muffly Hester), and two friends (Carrie Stout, Helen “Tweet” Wesner). If anyone has a photo of any of these people–and is willing to share, send it my way and I’d be happy to post.

Aha!–Sometimes Wrote Two Entries on One Day

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

Tuesday, May 9, 1911:  By jingo if I haven’t forgotten what I did today. Just what I did several days ago. You see, sometimes it happens that I don’t always feel like writing in this diary every evening, so I wait until the next evening and make two entries at one time.

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

Aha!—just as I thought. Grandma did sometimes write a diary entry the following day.  For example, on Feb 23 she had written about going to sleep and then the entry on the 24th talked about waking up. It just seemed as if both entries had actually been written on the 24th.

The Minor and Major Players

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

Thursday, February 23, 1911: We had quite a gathering here this evening. Jake and the senior class were down for supper and to spend the evening. Only the girls staid all night. Besse was out, but she went home shortly after supper was over. Rachel and her brother (I mean her nice brother) arrived upon the scene shortly afterwards. We spent the evening playing cards. I played part of the time. I made some of the most blundering mistakes, you see, I am a greeny. I ate so much ice cream that I got a pain and it was an awful one, but it didn’t last very long. Thank goodness. Well after Bill and that teacher of mine took their departure, we four girls journeyed off up stairs where we talked and laughed for about an hour and a half before we could make up our minds to go to bed. At last we cuddled down to sleep. Ruth slept with Blanche and I slept with Edith, a bride elect. I felt quite honored.

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

There are lots of names in today’s posting—some that appear throughout the diary and others that appear in this posting and then quickly vanish from the diary pages. One of the challenges of working on family history is figuring out who all of the people are when many names are mentioned–and sometimes I wonder if it even matters if I never figure out who some of the tangential characters are since they play such minor roles in the story that is emerging. And secondary sources don’t always agree with what is in the diary— Ah, the challenge (and the fun) of working with primary family history sources.

The best place to get background information about the major people in the diary is on the People page. But today I’m going to try to sort out all of the names in this posting:

Grandma’s sister Ruth was a senior at McEwensville High School and she apparently invited the teacher and entire class out to dinner. (The entire class probably had 6 or 8 members. There were 6 people in Grandma’s graduating class two years later.) Jake–Grandma referred to him as Jakie in previous postings– was the teacher. I don’t know his last name. As I mentioned in a previous posting, according to Leon Hagenbuch in his History of McEwensville, Howard Northrop was the teacher during the 1910-11 school year—I sure can’t get anything close to Jake out of that name and I want to guess that the information in the History is incorrect but I could be wrong.

Besse is Grandma’s oldest sister. She was married and must have come just come to help with the party.

The Rachel mentioned in this entry is Rachel Oakes. She lived nearby and was a friend of Grandma and Ruth. Rachel must have been a little older than Ruth because in 1911 she was the elementary school teacher at McEwensville. Based on later entries Rachel had at least two brothers: James and Alvin. Both are mentioned several times in the diary and apparently were close in age to Grandma and Ruth. I’m not sure which one was the “nice brother” who was a member of the class of 1911.

And, based on other diary entries I’m guessing that the Bill in this entry referred to Bill Gauger. He later married Ruth.

Both Blanche and Edith must have been members of the senior class. Blanche refers to Blanch Bryson. She is mentioned only two or three times in the diary–and always just in passing. She apparently was not a particularly close friend of the Muffly girls.

And, I don’t know what Edith’s maiden name was, but a little later in the diary she marries Harry Reynolds. Edith is mentioned several times over the next few months and then her name disappears from the remaining diary pages. Soon after her marriage she apparently moved into a different circle of friends that probably was made up of married couples.

Which church did Grandma attend?

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

Sunday, February 5, 1911: Went to Sunday school this morning. Went to church this evening with Ruth. It was rather quiet today. Everything seemed so quiet.

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

There are so many pieces to the jig-saw puzzle that make up our ancestors’  lives. Questions like, “Which church did Grandma attend?” probably aren’t very important in the bigger scheme of things—but I’m curious. I asked my father. I searched for member records in church histories and other supplemental documents. However, the available data were inconclusive, and I still don’t definitively know the answer.

Based on a scan of the diary I can’t find any place where Grandma said which church she attended—though the diary entries indicate that she faithfully attended Sunday school. There were two or three churches in McEwensville one hundred years ago: St. John’s Reformed Church, Messiah Lutheran— and maybe a Baptist Church.

In the diary Grandma mentions the Lutheran and Reformed churches by name when she visits them—but she provides no church name when she attended her regular church. This suggests that she didn’t attend either of those churches–but  rather that she went to the Baptist one. However, I’m somewhat uncomfortable with that conclusion since I know that the Baptist church closed early in the 20th century. Agnes Beard wrote in 1939 in her History of McEwensville

“The Baptist Church, a brick edifice, has fallen into ruins, there being no members in or near the place to keep it in repair.”

Agnes Beard (1939)

Prior to reading Grandma’s diary I never thought about her religious beliefs. After she married Raymond Swartz she attended Messiah Lutheran Church. I don’t remember Grandma ever discussing religion—and was somewhat surprised that she probably was raised in a somewhat more conservative tradition than what she practiced as an adult.

Recent photo of building that once housed Messiah Lutheran Church.

As an older woman Grandma enjoyed visiting with friends in the “old ladies Sunday School class” at Messiah Lutheran.  Both Grandma and Helen “Tweet” Wesner were in that class. Tweet never married and lived her entire life in McEwensville. It’s kind of cool how life-long friendships and relationships developed in this small community.

Monthly Poem in Diary

15-year-old Helena wrote a hundred years ago today:

Wednesday, February 1, 1911.

One month come and gone,

                     And the month of February has dawned.

Though it be the shortest month of the year,

Yet I do not suppose that all would oppose.

From enjoying its good hears cheer.

I got a ride to school this morning, though the walking was perfectly fine! I got some candy of Jimmie’s tonight (he had quite a bit too much for a boy of his size so I relieved him of some).

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

The diary was written in a blank lined paper book. Each month of the diary begins with a poem. I wonder if Grandma wrote the poems or if she got them out of a book or magazine.

A hundred years ago poetry was much more popular than it is now.  Magazines such as Ladies Home Journal included entire pages of poetry.  Students were regularly required to memorize poems and teachers had poetry books that they used as sources for these poems. Pamphlets were printed by various religious denominations that contained poems which Sunday School children could memorize and then present.

This month’s poem doesn’t really work for me—and maybe Grandma wrote it—though I’m guessing that she got these monthly poems from other some source. I’ll probably never know for sure.

This is the first time that Jimmie is mentioned in the diary. He was Grandma’s six-year-old brother.

Making Sense of the Diary

January 11, 1911: Missing entry (Diary resumes on January 12)

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

The diary entries resume tomorrow. Yeah!!

Since a diary author doesn’t really write the diary for others to read many years later, sometimes it is difficult to understand the context of diary entries.

Also, Grandma was about 40 years younger than me when she began this diary. How might the age differences frame how I interpret what she wrote? Grandma’s diary entries and my reflections and comments are not parallel.  Grandma was a teen jotting down her thoughts—I’m a mother with adult children reflecting on what a 15-year-old said a hundred years previously.   

To help me make sense of the diary I have several questions that I hope to answer as I work my way through the entries—one day at a time.

  • Who are the main people in the diary (“the characters”) and what are their stories? 
  • How does the diary author portray events, relationships, and herself?
  •  Does anything in the diary help me better understand myself? 
  • Can I learn anything about the slower lifestyle of 100 years ago that is still relevant today?

Grandma’s Parents

Tuesday, January 3, 1911: Missing Entry (Diary resumes on  January 12)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later

The 1900 census image for the Muffly family on the Family Search website provides a few interesting clues about Grandma’s parents. Her father Albert Muffly was born in Pennsylvania in November 1857. He was a farmer. Her mother Phoebe (called Febia on the census form) Muffly was born in Pennsylvania in August 1862. At the start of the diary Grandma’s father would have been 53 years old and her mother was 48.

(An aside: According to the Family Search tool the spelling of Muffly also shifted on census forms. On the 1900 census Muffly is spelled Muffly–but on the 1910 and 1920 ones it is spelled Muffley. I’ve also occasionally seen the spelling that includes an “e” on other documents but “Muffly” seems to be the preferred spelling.  I guess the importance of consistent spelling for future family genealogists wasn’t considered back then. But onward–)

It is also possible to figure out that Grandma’s father was 38 years old when she was born and that her mother was 33. Grandma’s oldest sister Besse (called Bessie on the census form) was 6 years older than Grandma; her other sister Ruth was 3 years older. (By the time Grandma was writing the diary she also had a brother Jimmie who was about 9 years younger than she was. Grandma’s mother must have been about 42 years old when Jimmie was born which seems quite old for that era.)

I had always heard that Grandma was the third child (and third daughter) in the family. According to the 1900 census form her mother had had 4 children prior to 1900—and 3 were still living. So Grandma must have had another sibling who apparently did not live very long.

John and Sarah Derr Family. Taken about 1900. L to R. Front Row: John, Annie (Derr) Van Sant, Sarah. Back Row: Miles, Fuller, Alice (Derr) Krumm, Elmer, Phoebe (Derr) Muffly, Judson, Homer. Phoebe was the mother of Helena.

In the early 1900s prominent citizens in a county were sometimes invited to submit biographical sketches that were then compiled into county history books. The individuals were also required to pay a fee if they wanted their sketch included the book. Some of these books are now available online. Two of Phoebe Muffly’s brothers have sketches in county histories and I was able to glean bits of information about Phoebe from them. Historical and Biographical Annuals of Columbia and Montour Counties Pennsylvania (Vol.  II)   had an entry about her brother J. Miles Derr (pp. 753-4) and Bell’s History of Northumberland County  had an entry for her brother Fuller Derr (p. 1085).

Grandma’s mother Phoebe Muffly was one of nine children born to John F. and Sarah (Houseknecht) Derr.  As an adult Phoebe had brothers living in South Dakota (Homer) and Baltimore Maryland (Elmer). Another brother (Fuller) was a physician in Watsontown; while  Miles was a teacher at Limestoneville. One of Phoebe’s sisters (Annie) was married to a physician in Turbotville.

When Grandma Helena began keeping the diary her maternal grandparents John and Sarah Derr were retired farmers living  in nearby Turbotville Pennsylvania.

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