A Little More About Sister Besse

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

Wednesday, April 10, 1912:  Nothing to write about.

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

Usually I’m disappointed when Grandma doesn’t write much—but this time I’m relieved. It probably means that Grandma’s life was settling back into normal routines. She’s had a rough week with two deaths—a friend died  after a long illness and her sister Besse’s son died shortly after his birth.

I feel like I’ve been mourning the death of Besse’s baby all week—so I’ll tell you a little more about Besse.

Besse and her husband Curt Hester ran a butcher shop in nearby Watsontown for many years. They had one child who survived beyond infancy. Curt, Jr. was born in 1915.

Curt Jr. and his wife Mae never had any children.

Besse, Curt, Mae, and Curt, Jr. are buried next to each other in the Watsontown cemetery.

An aside– When I was young Curt,  Jr. and Mae lived on the farm that Grandma lived on when she wrote this diary. I remember that Mae had a beautiful yard which included a small pond with lily pads and large golden fish. (I’ve never known anyone else with a fish pond in their yard and was awed by it.)

“I Am An Aunt No Longer”

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

Tuesday, April 9, 1912:  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.

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

I also feel like crying as I write this post, even though the birth (and death) happened a hundred year ago. It’s never easy when a baby dies.  . .

I’ll give you a bit of background information. Grandma’s oldest sister Besse was married to Curt Hester, and they lived a several miles from the Muffly farm.

Surprisingly, Grandma never mentioned her sister’s pregnancy in the diary.  There’s just this entry about the birth—and death of her nephew.

Besse only had one child who survived beyond infancy–D. Curtis. He was born in 1915.

This has been a rough April for Grandma. This is only the second death mentioned  in the fifteen months that Grandma had been keeping the diary. The first one was mentioned  just five days earlier on April 4, 1912 when a girl from her Sunday School class died.

An aside–I looked through the old microfilms of the Milton Evening Standard and could find neither the baby’s death (which didn’t surprise me) nor the friend’s death (which did surprise me). Milton is about 6 miles from McEwensville and maybe the death of a teen after a long illness just wasn’t considered important enough to put in the paper–though I have seen other McEwensville obituaries in the paper.

Went Visiting: Only One Uncle at Home

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

Sunday, January 21, 1912: Pa and I went over to Ottawa today. I suppose if I had expected yesterday to do today I would have been disappointed. It’s my luck. But the unlucky thing about it was that Uncle George was the only one at home. I made the coffee. I would have liked to have known what it tasted like, but you see I don’t drink any.

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

Ottawa is a tiny village in Limestone Township, Montour County—and is located about 12 miles east of the Muffly farm.

George Muffly was a brother of Grandma’s father (Albert Muffly). He lived with is brother Samuel and his widowed sister Mary and her two two children (20 year-old Kathryn and 15 year-old John). Grandma probably hoped that her cousin Kathryn would be there.

Grandma’s father was one of eleven children of Samuel K. and Charlotte Muffly. He was born in 1857 and was the fourth oldest child in the family. George was the youngest. He was born in 1874 and would have been 35 years old when this diary entry was written.

According to the 1910 census George was single and lived with his 43-year-old single brother Samuel and his widowed sister Mary Feinour and her two children. Mary was two year older than Grandma’s father.

An aside–According the 1920 census, Samuel was still single, but lived alone. George apparently had married. Mary died in 1912. She is buried in the Watsontown Cemetery next to her parents. Somehow I sense that Mary had a difficult life. I wish I knew more about her—though she was a very distant relative and is really tangential to the family members that my research focuses on.

Mary's tombstone is on the left. Her mother's is in the middle and her father's is on the right.

For more about the genealogy of the Muffly family, click here.

Ruth’s Birthday

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

Friday, January 19, 1912: You walk through slush instead of snow for the present. I pulled Ruthie’s ears. I tell her she is getting to be an old maid but really don’t mean it.

I was rather mad this afternoon. We had some Algebra problems that I didn’t know how on earth to do them. But I guess I can do them now if I try hard enough.

Ruth Muffly*

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

A hundred years ago today was Grandma’s sister Ruth’s 20th birthday. People used  to pull the birthday person’s ear lobes one time for each year, so Grandma would have pulled Ruth’s ears 20 times.

In 1911, on Ruth’s birthday, Grandma woke Ruth by pulling her ears. She made have done the same thing in 1912.

*1913 photo of Ruth. Photo used with permission. Source: The History of the McEwensville Schools: 1800-1958 by Thomas Kramm.

Two Bachelor Uncles

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

Thursday, August 24, 1911: Although the weather looked exceedingly threatening this morning and continued to drizzle now and then all day, Ruth and I went over to Ottawa on the train in spite of the silvery rain drops. I have two bachelor uncles living there and wanted to go over so bad after an absence of seven year anyway, if not more. Our visit was but of short duration, but we intend however to visit them again this coming fall. Making a longer visit than this one and to visit a certain park not far away.

Recent photo of the railroad track by the Muffly farm. It's hard to picture, but there once was a feed mill by the tracks--and it was a flag stop for a passenger train.

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

Grandma and her sister Ruth probably flagged down the Susquehanna, Bloomsburg, and Berwick train at the feed mill near their farm. The train stopped at every hamlet between Watsontown and Berwick—and Ottawa was a stop on the line.

Ottawa is a tiny village in Limestone Township, Montour County—and is located about 12 miles east of the Muffly farm.

Transportation was more difficult a hundred years ago than it is today, but it seems somewhat surprising that Grandma hadn’t seen two uncles who lived only a few miles away for at least seven years.

I think that the bachelor uncles were Samuel and George Muffly.  They were brothers of Grandma’s father. According to the 1910 census Samuel Muffly was a 43-year-old single male. He lived with his 34-year-old brother George and his 59-year-old widowed sister Mary Feinour and her two children, 19-year-old S. Kathryn and 14-year-old John.

It seems odd that Grandma only mentioned her uncles and did not mention her aunt and cousins—but maybe they had moved out of the household by 1911.

(In case you care—The Church of Latter Day Saints Family Search tool makes it really easy to search old census records.  I also found Samuel in the 1920 census. He was still single and was still living in Limestone Township, Montour County—but he was living alone.)

Mother’s 49th Birthday–She’s Getting Old

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

Tuesday, August 22, 1911Mother was kind of mad this morning. It was her birthday, and I guess she realizes she is getting old and doesn’t like the idea. I’m busy watching cows these sunny August days. Wouldn’t you like to help me. I surely would appreciate it.

Mother: Phoebe Muffly (Circa 1900--So she would have been about 11 years older than she is in the photo when this diary entry was written.)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years 

Grandma’s mother, Phoebe Derr Muffly, was born on August 22, 1862 so it would have been her 49th birthday. It sounds like she was having a bit of a middle-age crisis. Her youngest child, Jimmie, was going to enter first grade in a few weeks–so I suppose that she felt like she was moving into the next stage in her life.

For almost a quarter of a century child-rearing had been the center of Phoebe’s life. Her oldest living child Besse was born in 1888. (There may have been an older one who died at an early age—see previous post.)   Phoebe probably felt good to finally have her youngest child almost ready to start school—but it probably also was a bit scary and made her feel old.

In 1911 most women did not have jobs outside of the home and it often was even more traumatic for woman as they reached menopause than it is now.

A hundred years ago books and magazines encouraged women to develop new interests and become involved in new activities as their children grew up.

With a variety of valuable and permanent interests, the mind is well safeguarded against attacks of worry. A woman should increase her recreations, leave home for short intervals, travel . . .

Personal Hygiene and Physical Training for Women (1911) by Anna Galbraith

Pennsylvania Politics in 1911

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

Saturday, July 15, 1911: Nothing really worthwhile. Oh sad routine.

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

Today we’re constantly bombarded with news about politics.  I woke up yesterday morning to a radio story about a possible government shutdown, the upcoming recall elections in Wisconsin, candidates gearing up of the 2012 presidential election. . .

And, I wondered what politics were like in Pennsylvania in 1911.

Since not much happened a hundred years ago today, I’ll tell you what I learned.  Only men could vote in 1911—women didn’t get suffrage until 1920.  The Republicans controlled politics in the state back then. According to P. Jenkins:

Pennsylvania had long lacked a true Democratic opposition in one of the few industrial regions where Republican dominance at the state level was not countered by Democratic machines in the cities. The Democrats elected no U.S. senators between 1875 and 1934 and no state governors between 1890 and 1934, and the party lost ninety-five of ninety-six statewide elections between 1893 and 1931. In consequence, political conflicts were fought by factions within the Republican Party. Though alliances shifted frequently, this never damaged the overwhelming power of the Republican interest.

Grandma's Uncle, F. Miles Derr

I don’t know which party Grandma’s father belonged to, but I do know which party one of her uncles, F. Miles Derr, belonged to. Miles was a brother of her mother (Phoebe Derr Muffly), and lived in Limestone Township in nearby Montour County.  There is a  short biography of Miles in the Historical and Biographical Annuals of Columbia and Montour Counties Pennsylvania (Vol.  II)  (pp. 753-4).  It says that he was Republican:

 He takes an active role in local political affairs, at present serving as tax receiver for his township, and on political questions is allied with the Republican party.

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