1913 Sunbury Teachers’ Meeting

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

Friday, May 2, 1913:  Dear old Ruthie went to Sunbury this morning and isn’t coming home until tomorrow night. Rather miss the kid, too. I’m afraid I’ll soon have to begin to watch cows for that time is now at hand.

Source: The History of McEwensville Schools by Thomas Kramm (Used with permission)

Row 1: Rachel Oakes (middle), Blanche Bryson (right). Row 2: Ruth Muffly (left) Source: The History of McEwensville Schools by Thomas Kramm (Used with permission)

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

I can’t believe it, but I may know why Grandma’s sister Ruth went to Sunbury. I think it was to attend a teachers’ meeting.

Sometimes I’m amazed how the pieces fit together. There is a photo in The History of the McEwensville Schools 1800-1958 of 12 women who attended a teachers meeting in Sunbury in 1913. One of them is Ruth Muffly—so I’m speculating that the reason she went to Sunbury on this date was to attend that meeting.

Ruth was a teacher at a nearby one-room school-house. The other two women who were identified in the photo were Rachel Oakes and Blanche Bryson. Both are mentioned in the diary. They were friends of Grandma and Ruth—as well as teachers.

Sunbury is about 15 miles from McEwensville, and it is the county seat of Northumberland county. The meeting probably was held to provide information and professional development for the teachers at many small schools scattered across the county.

Ruth wasn’t exactly a kid–she was 21 and three years older than Grandma.

Grandma often got annoyed with Ruth—but almost immediately missed her when she was gone. Was it because she had to do more work—or was it because she missed the companionship?

Maybe Grandma wished that Ruth was at home to help watch the cows. During previous summers Grandma often mentioned needing to watch the cows so that they didn’t escape from the pasture and get into the crops.

Memorizing Essay to Present at Graduation

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

Tuesday, April 8, 1913:  Am trying to learn my essay. I know about half of it.

commencement.program.1

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

Even though Grandma won’t graduate for another several weeks, I’m going to share her commencement program today since I think that she probably was trying to memorize an essay that she wrote for her graduation speech.

(The graduation program contains lots of interesting tidbits—and I plan to explore different facets of if in several upcoming posts. Today I’m just going to focus on Grandma’s speech.)

Grandma was probably trying to memorize the essay that she mentioned on March 21, 1913:

. . . Am tugging away at my old essay it is almost finished.

Her graduation essay was titled Relics of the Earth’s Past. I wonder how the topics were selected. Maybe it was a really interesting speech, but the topic sounds kind of boring to me.

Earlier in the year, Grandma had written about writing an essay on the Revolutionary War. The teacher told the class that the person who wrote the best essay would win  a 2 1/2  dollar gold piece. Based on the program, it appears Grandma didn’t win the gold piece—since J. Karl Watson did a graduation presentation titled, Valley Forge, A Dark Spot of the American Revolution.

Played Cards After Play Practice

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

Friday, January 31, 1913: We went to practice again this evening. I don’t know any more of my part than the first time we practiced. Ruth had to stay in turn after it was over to spend a few hours in card playing. I’m not much of a card player but I did learn to play one game.

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

Recent photo of the McEwensville Community Hall and picnic grove. The festival probably was held in this small park.

The play practice probably was held at the McEwensville Community Center. The building has been a community center for more than 100 years–and it had a wonderful stage. In recent years part of the stage has been converted into a storage area, but when I was a child I can remember it being a regular stage with lots of rows of curtains.  I took these pictures in 2011 when I attended a community pot luck picnic.

DSC04338

DSC04340

It sounds like Grandma’s sister Ruth went along to the play practice.  Based upon a previous diary entry, I thought that the play was a class play and that the cast members were students who would be graduating in the spring.  On January 20, Grandma wrote:

Our class expects to have a swell blow-out one of these days. We’re going to give a play. . .

Ruth was two years older than Grandma—and a teacher at a one-room school house.  This entry makes it sound like Ruth was also in the play. Maybe it really was a community play rather than a class play—or maybe Ruth just accompanied Grandma so that Grandma wouldn’t need to walk to town in the dark by herself.

In any case, it sounds like the girls had fun socializing after play practice. It probably was an almost perfect Friday night.

Walked to Reunion in Turbotville

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

Sunday, January 19, 1913: A bright and beautiful dawn welcomed the approach of day. Ruth and I walked to Turbotville this morning to attend a family reunion. All of ‘em weren’t there. Had quite a pleasant time, but it would have been nicer if some more of the cousins had been there. We had our pictures taken out on the lawn. That walk home didn’t do me up, but I did get a terrific head-ache anyway.

Recent photo of road between McEwensville and Turbotville.

Recent photos of the road between McEwesnville and Turbotille. This picture was taken at the point where the road leaves McEwesnville.

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

Whew, it is probably about a five-mile walk—10 miles round trip– from the Muffly farm to Turbotville. Even on the nicest of days—in January or any other month– this sounds like a long, exhausting walk for Grandma and her sister Ruth.

This picture was taken This picture was taken midway between McEwensville and Turbotville.

This picture was taken midway between McEwensville and Turbotville.

Grandma’s maternal grandparents lived in Turbotville. Why didn’t Grandma’s mother go to the reunion to see her parents and siblings?

Turbotville

Turbotville

Population of McEwensville, Watsontown, and Milton, 1910 – 2010, with Links to US Census Data

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

Saturday, November 30, 1912:  Ruth and I washed this morning. Went to Watsontown this afternoon.

Click on graph to enlarge.

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

Sounds like a nice way for Grandma to spend a Saturday—doing a little work in the morning with her sister Ruth, and then rewarding herself by going to town in the afternoon. Maybe Grandma started her Christmas shopping.

There are three towns regularly mentioned in this diary—all small in the big scheme of things, but within Grandma’s world there was a small town (McEwensville), a medium-sized town (Watsontown), and a large town (Milton).

Today none of the three would be much of a shopping destination—but  a hundred years ago transportation was so much more difficult and each had stores.

McEwensville was the small town, but the one Grandma went to the most frequently . It also was where she attended school.  McEwensville was about 1 1/2 miles east of the Muffly farm. It had a general store, a pharmacy, a restaurant, and a few other businesses.

McEwensville

Watsontown was the medium sized town and where Grandma went a hundred years ago today. It was also about 1 1/2 miles from the Muffly farm, but in the opposite direction from McEwensville. Grandma often walked to Watsontown. It was to the west and is located along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. It had a small downtown with a full range of stores where clothes, housewares, etc. could be purchased.

Watsontown

Milton was considered the “big city” in Grandma’s day—even though the population was only about 7,500 people. At the time, it was a considered a glamorous shopping destination with glittery department stores, women’s clothing shops, shoe stores, and restaurants.   It was about 5 miles from the Muffly farm. Grandma would have either ridden in a buggy to get there—or she could have walked into Watsontown and then taken the trolley from Watsontown to Milton.

Milton

Since all three towns seem very sleepy today, I decided to see it they’d lost a lot of population across the years (see graph above). I was surprised to discover that the population had changed less than I expected between 1910 and 2010. Milton and Watsontown have lost a lot of factories since the 1970s—and many people moved away. It’s nice to see that the population trends have turned and that the population is increasing.

Links to Census Data Sets

I used data from US censuses to make the tables. There is an awesome amount of census data available for every town in the US. Here are the links to the Census population data for each of the years.

1910 census

1930 census

1950 census

1970 census

1990 census

2010 census

100-Year-Old Halloween Costumes

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

Thursday, October 31, 1912:  And this is Halloween. What a pity it is that I’m not out having a good time, and I’ve never had that pleasure either.

Witch (Source: Ladies Home Journal, July, 1912)

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

Poor Grandma—It’s too bad that she missed all the fun. I’d be bummed, too.

Here’s what was happening in nearby Milton on Halloween, 1912:

HALLOWEEN PARTIES AND MASQUERADERS MADE NIGHT GAY

Young Folks and Old Enjoyed Selves in Various Ways

Streets Were Filled with Merrymakers

Milton was the scene of high carnival last night. Chattering and laughing, it was a merry throng that wandered up and down the length of Broadway and Front last night for hours attired in costumes that represented every character and nation under the sun, and in some costumes that didn’t represent anything in particular. . .

Milton Evening Standard (November 1, 1912)

Recent photo of Broadway and Front Streets, Milton The street is generally very quiet now. Imagine what it was like a hundred years ago with masqueraders parading through the downtown.

Biplane Whirling Aloft at the 1912 Milton Fair

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

Thursday, October 3, 1912:  I really did go after all my doubtings, but now I feel just as tired as there is any use in being. Saw a flying machine whirling aloft in the air for at least 10 minutes. I think twas quite a sight to see.

Biplane at 1912 Milton Fair. (Source: Chronicles and Legends of Milton by George Venios. Used with permission.)

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

Grandma went to the fair in the nearby town of Milton. She wrote the previous day that she planned to go.

Whew—I can hardly believe it, but I found a picture of the flying machine Grandma saw.

George Venios, in his book titled Chronicles and Legends of Milton, writes about the Milton Fair. And, he includes a picture of the plane that was at the 1912 fair.

The photo caption in the book says:

The photo, taken in 1912, is a pusher type biplane and is believed to be one of the first aircraft to land here while on a hair-raising “barnstorming” tour.

I contacted George and he generously gave me permission to include the photo in this post, so that you could see it. Thank you!

When I found the photo, I got my magnifying glass out to see if I could find Grandma in the crowd; though, of course, I couldn’t.

George also sent me a picture of a mural in Milton that reflects the history of transportation in the town. The mural includes an image of the 1912 biplane.

Transportation mural in Milton (Source: George Venios. Used with permission.)

Chronicles and Legends of Milton is an awesome resource that tells the story of Milton, and is full of wonderful photos. Milton has a really interesting history—and I’d encourage anyone interested in its story to get a copy of the book.

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