The Day of Grandpap’s Funeral

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

Friday, November 21, 1913: Ruth and I went to Turbotville this morning on the train to attend the funeral.

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.

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.

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

Grandma’s 90-year-old grandfather, John Derr,  died on November 17. He was her mother’s father.  Grandma and her sister Ruth would have taken the  the Susquehanna Bloomsburg and Berwick train to Turbotville for the funeral. It was about a  five mile trip.  There was a whistle stop at the feed mill near their home where they would have flagged the train down.

How did the rest of the family get to the funeral? One thought—

Maybe her mother, father, and little brother Jimmie had gone ahead to the funeral—but Ruth and Grandma had to stay home and  milk the cows before they could go.

John Derr had a big family, so the funeral would have been large. It was probably held at a church or the family home—though it might possibly have been held at a funeral home.  He was buried in the Turbotville Cemetery.

John’s wife Sarah was still living. Were family members worried about how she was taking her husband’s death?  In 1913, Sarah was only 79 (and she would live another 14 years until she died in 1928 at the age of 93).

Eight of John’s nine children were still living. Did they all manage to get home for the funeral? Five of the children lived nearby: Phoebe (Grandma’s mother), Alice, Annie, Miles, Judson, and Fuller; but two were more distant.

The 1910 census indicates that one son, Homer, was a college professor living in Brookings, South Dakota. How did he get the message about his dad’s death? . . . by telegraph?  Was it possible for him to get back to Pennsylvania in only four days for a funeral?

And, records indicate that Elmer was a “sales manager – harvester” in Baltimore, Maryland.

 

Grandpap Died

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

Monday, November 17, 1913: Mother went to Turbotville this morning. I kept house while she was gone. She returned with sad news. Grandpap died this morning.

John Derr (Photo taken: circa 1900)

Grandma’s Grandfather: John Derr (Photo taken: circa 1900)

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

Grandma—

It’s hard to lose a grandparent.

Was your grandfather ill for a long time or was the death sudden? According to family records, he was born on July 16, 1823, so he was 90 years old.

You’re occasionally mentioned making trips to Turbotville to visit relatives, but never specifically mentioned your grandfather.

My thoughts are with you and your mother.

Take care.

Grandma’s Grades

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

Monday, September 1, 1913:

Another month to greet us comes.

September with her golden scenes.

Is here once more to tell us that

Tis not for long e’er autumn intervenes.

Again and yet again comes the opening of school. Again chimes the dear old bell in the belfry of the ne’er to be forgotten M.H.S. No more can I respond to its summons. No more can I hasten back to my beloved studies and bury myself in their wisdom. No more can I taste of the sweetness of school days. There are indeed past, but their memory lingers still.

A recebt photo of the building that once housed McEwensville High School.

A recebt photo of the building that once housed McEwensville High School.

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

Grandma, I can feel your pain. Last spring you were thrilled when you graduated from McEwensville High School (M.H.S.). It must feel really strange for school to start and no longer be part of it.

When the school bell rings, I bet it really hurts that you didn’t get a teaching job. But, I don’t know that for a fact since you’ve never mentioned it in the diary.

I’ve speculated that you tried, but failed, to get a teaching job at a nearby one room school house since both of your older sisters became teachers after they graduated from high school.

During your school years, you worried so much about your grades. Weren’t they good enough for you to get a teaching position?

Well, I checked the school’s grade book, and discovered that your grades weren’t fantastic, but they were darn good.  (See note below about how I found the grade book).

grade book

Most of your grades were in the upper 80s and you had some in the low 90s. Arithmetic was your best subject–across the year for Arithmetic you averaged 91 3/7. I love how your teacher calculated the average using a fraction.   I don’t understand why you didn’t get a job.

Does life seem to be passing you by? . . .No job.  . . .and, no boyfriend.  A hundred years ago women often got married in their late teens and early twenties. Some of your friends probably have serious boyfriends and are looking forward to marrying soon, but you don’t have a boyfriend or prospects for an early marriage. . .

Hang in there . . . my crystal ball tells me that you’ll get married when you are 26.  :)

—–

Sometimes I’m amazed to discover information and artifacts that I’d assumed were gone forever.

The readers of this blog are wonderful . Janet Shuman put me in touch with her mother-in-law Jane Shuman who had the old grade book from McEwensville High School. I almost shook with excitement as I flipped through the pages—and found my grandmother’s grades. Thank you, Janet and Jane!

Memorial Day, 1913

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

Friday, May 30, 1913:  Went up to McEwensville this morning as I planned to do some time ago. There wasn’t any band and not so many people. Wanted to go to Watsontown this afternoon to see the cemetery, but didn’t have anyone to go with. After thinking it over I decided to go as I believed I would feel miserable if I staid at home. The slippers I had on made me awful tired and began to wonder how I would get myself home. The problem was solved when I got a chance to ride where-upon I considered myself quite fortunate.

Was the McEwensville event held at the cemetery or at the Community Center?

The brick building in the background once houses McEwensville School.

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

A hundred years ago Memorial Day was always on May 30. In the 1910s it was an important holiday with lots of parades and celebrations honoring aging Civil War veterans.

It sounds like the day got off to a rocky start, but ended nicely. Did Grandma wear the new dress that her mother made? Who brought her home from Watsontown? . .. . anyone interesting?

At the Watsontown Cemetery, did Grandma put the wreath she made the previous day on the grave of her paternal grandparents?  Her grandfather, S.K. Muffly, died when she was very young; but her grandmother, Charlotte Muffly, died in 1905 when Grandma was 10. What were Grandma’s memories of her grandmother? . . . Did she miss her?

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Or maybe Grandma put the wreath on the grave of her aunt, Mary (Muffly) Fienour, who died the previous summer. (In the obituary Mary’s last name is spelled Feinour.) Mary is buried next to her mother (Charlotte).

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Mary Feinour Obituary. Source: Milton Evening Standard (July 19, 1912). Click to enlarge for easier reading.

Mary Feinour Obituary. Source: Milton Evening Standard (July 19, 1912). Click to enlarge for easier reading.

(The fourth gravestone in the group, is the stone of Grandma’s uncle, Samuel Muffly. That stone won’t have been there in 1913–he didn’t die until 1930.)

Was Grandma’s Name Helena or Helen?

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

Saturday, May 10, 1913: Nothing much doing today. I got my diploma this evening. The ones we had at commencement were fakes.

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

Congratulations, Grandma! It’s official now, you’re a high school graduate.

Your diploma hangs in my house, and is one reason that I’ve always been so fascinated with you.  I’ve told the story before, but I’ll tell it again.

I’m going to repost part of what I wrote on Day 2 of this blog,  January 2, 2011:

Helena, Helen or Grandma?

As I work at posting this diary I’ve struggled with what name to use when referring to the diary’s author.

The diary’s author called herself Helena. My grandmother called herself Helen.

I grew up in the farmhouse where my grandmother lived when my father was a child. When I was a teen I found Helena Muffly’s high school diploma in the attic.

I saw Grandma the next Sunday at church. After church I asked her whether her name was Helen or Helena.

She said Helen. When I told her about the name on the diploma. She laughed and replied, “Oh, that was just kid stuff.”

My cousin Stu did a little research on Grandma’s name using the Family Search.org tool. He found that her name is listed as Helena in the 1900 and 1920 censuses–but that it is Helen in the 1910 one.

Helen? Helena? Grandma? It seems strange to call a teen Grandma, but that’s how I think of her. Maybe I’ll just call the author Grandma when I write about her even though she was many years away from becoming my grandmother.

When I was in a college I visited the home of my roommate’s parents. Their family room was decorated with framed old family documents—marriage certificates, birth certificates, diplomas, baptismal certificates and so on.

I immediately thought of Grandma’s diploma in my parent’s attic and the mystery surrounding her name—and asked if I could have it. I framed the diploma and it’s been part of my household décor in the many apartments and houses that I’ve lived in since then.

What Was Grandma’s Oldest Sister Like?

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

Wednesday, May 7, 1913: Haven’t done much today to make this entry interesting. Besse was out here this morning.

Besse (Muffly) Hester

Besse (Muffly) Hester

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

Besse was Grandma’s oldest sister. She was  seven years older than Grandma—and would have been  25 years-old in 1913.

The diary and other sources provide lots of clues about what Besse was like.

Besse was married to a butcher, Curt Hester; and lived in nearby Watsontown.

According to the History of the McEwensville Schools, 1800-1958 by Thomas Kramm, Besse Muffly was a teacher at the Red Hill School, a one-room school house at the south end of McEwensville, from 1906-1909.  She probably quit teaching when she got married.

Recent photo of building that once housed Red Hill School. It is now a home.

Recent photo of building that once housed Red Hill School, the school where Besse taught. It is now a home.

Besse and Curt occasionally came out to the Muffly farm on Sunday afternoons. For example on March 2, 1913 Grandma wrote:

Went to Sunday School this morning. Besse and Curt were out this afternoon.

Besse also came out to the farm alone sometimes. For example, she helped with the cooking and serving when the threshers came:

Was in such terrible trepidation this morning, lest I would have to miss school and help Ma with the work, but Besse came to my relief. So glad I was. I missed those stacks and stacks of dishes for dinner, but have to confront them tonight.

September 13, 1911

Several places the diary mentioned Grandma, Besse, and their sister Ruth having fun together. For example, on April 15, 1911, Grandma wrote:

Besse was out this afternoon. We three kids went for arbutus and I got some this time.

Besse had also faced some difficult times. The previous year she had a baby that died shortly after birth. On April 9, 2012 Grandma wrote:

I was an aunt for one brief half a day yesterday, but didn’t know it until this morning. I was so disappointed when I heard it was dead. My little nephew was buried this afternoon. The baby I never saw. I feel like crying, when I think I am an aunt no longer.

Graduation Day

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

Wednesday, April 23, 1913:  The work of twelve long years is over. I have long looked forward to this. My last day at high school. It has come and with it a mixture of sadness and pleasure.

Two of my cousins came on the train to attend commencement. I had quite a time getting dressed, for buttons were bound to come off and strings to break.

At last I arrived at the church. We marched in and so on up to the front of the church, where we took seats in uncomfortable chairs and managed to sit out the evening. I recited my essay without a mental breakdown and then at last all was over, after which came congratulations and well wishes.

I am quite pleased with my presents. I received four today.

Graduating didn’t go very hard for me. I was sorry when all was over.

Succeeded in going to school every day for the last four years.

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Helena Muffly (I think this is her graduation photo.)

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

Congratulations Grandma!

Recent photo of the railroad tracks that cross the Muffly farm.

Recent photo of the railroad tracks that cross the Muffly farm.

A hundred years ago Truckemiller’s Mill bordered the Muffly farm, and Grandma’s cousins probably got off the train at the mill. There was a whistle stop for the Susquehanna Bloomsburg and Berwick (S. B. and B.) Railroad at  the mill. The mill is long gone—and the road and railroad tracks have changed a little—but her cousins probably stepped off the train near this spot.

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This used to be the Lutheran Church in McEwensville.

This used to be the Lutheran Church in McEwensville.

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United Church of Christ (Reformed Church)

Grandma probably triumphantly marched with her classmates down the center aisle of one of these churches to the music of the orchestra.  I wonder why the ceremony was held at a church instead of the community hall. . . perhaps the church was larger and would better hold all of the graduates’ friends and family members.

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