Runs, Creeks, Brooks, Cricks, and Other Streams

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

Friday, August 14, 1914:  We are getting ready for the reunion. Ruthie made two cakes today. Was busy washing Daddy’s wagon down along the run this afternoon.

Warrior Run Creek near the Muffly farm

Warrior Run Creek

Source: Farm Implement Magazine (Novermber, 1913)

Source: Farm Implement Magazine (Novermber, 1913)

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

I wonder why the wagon needed to be washed. Warrior Run (sometimes called Warrior Run Creek) flowed along the edge of the Muffly farm. In central Pennsylvania small creeks are often called runs—though my sense is that the term is not used in many parts of the US.

In a previous post I mentioned Warrior Run, and Jim in IA commented on the regional variation in terminology used to describe creeks and other geological features. He provided a link to several very interesting Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) maps that show which parts of the US use various terms—brook/creek/branch/run, gulch/hollow, gap/pass/notch/saddle, etc.

Geographic Terminology Maps

Sent Note About Change in Plans

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

Thursday, August 13, 1914:  Wrote to Alma so she knows about the change. Hope it won’t disappoint her very much. Wonder how I would feel if I didn’t get to go. Well for my part I don’t want to experience the feeling. Don’t think it would be a pleasant sensation.DSC04322

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

The previous day Grandma wrote:

. . . My heart slumped down to my very feet this morning or so it felt when I learned that Ruthie had received a letter from the ticket agent stating that the excursion to Niagara Fall next Monday was not going. Any way our crowd decided that we would go, and so I began to get relieved.

We now know the name of another member of the group going to Niagara Falls. Alma Derr was a cousin of Grandma and her sister Ruth. She lived near the hamlet of Ottawa in Montour County, Pennsylvania which is about 10 miles from the Muffly farm.

What did Grandma write? Maybe she just told Alma about some relatively minor price and schedule changes—though Grandma seems very worried about how Alma will react.

Minister Came in an Automobile

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

Wednesday, August 12, 1914:  Our new preacher was down here this morning to make a business call. He came in this automobile.

My heart slumped down to my very feet this morning or so it felt when I learned that Ruthie had received a letter from the ticket agent stating that the excursion to Niagara Fall next Monday was not going. Any way our crowd decided that we would go, and so I began to get relieved.

Source: Kimball's Dairy Farmer Magazine (February 1, 1912)

Source: Kimball’s Dairy Farmer Magazine (February 1, 1912)

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

Wow, I’m surprised that the minister has a car. This is the first time in the diary that an automobile has been mentioned within the context of day-to-day activities–though obviously automobiles were still rare enough to be worthy of mentioning .

Previously cars were always viewed as a novelty. For example, on May 30, 1912 Grandma wrote:

Memorial Day: Carrie and I went up to McEwensville this morning. This afternoon we went over to Watsontown accompanied by another girl friend. We had the pleasure of getting an automobile ride. It was the first time I was ever in one and consequently never had experienced a ride.

Excursion Trains

Grandma, her sister Ruth, and several others were planning to visit Niagara Falls. In the early 20th century, there were special excursion trains that took people directly to tourist spots. Apparently too few people booked the Niagara Falls trip, so the excursion train was canceled. It sounds as if they were now planning to just take regularly scheduled trains to Niagara Falls.

Bought Some Carbolic Acid

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

Tuesday, August 11, 1914:  Had to trot up to McEwensville to get some carbolic acid for Pa. The storekeeper said I should be careful of it; Well I didn’t swallow any if that’s what was meant. It must be fierce stuff. I could smell it through the bottle.

carbolic acid

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

What happened? Why did Grandma’s father need carbolic acid?

Carbolic acid (also known as phenol) was an antiseptic that was used to clean wounds. It was also used as a disinfectant.

It is a poison, but in small amounts it is sometimes used as an ingredient in some oral analgesics. For example, in more recent years carbolic acid has been used as an ingredient in Chloraseptic spray and Carmex.

Doing Laundry a Hundred Years Ago

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

Monday, August 10, 1914:   We were busy washing this morning. Two mornings prior to this one I escaped wash days as I found some errand to take me away for the morning.  It was a big one this time. We are getting some of our things ready for the trip. Told Ruth I wished the time would soon pass.


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

Grandma and her sister Ruth were going to visit Niagara Falls later in August. Doing laundry was more work back then than now.

Since it’s relevant to this post, I’m going to repeat part of a post that I originally shared three years ago on August 28, 2011 (1911):


Here are some quotes from a book published in 1911 called Laundry Work for Use in Home and Schools by Juniata Shepperd:

Prepare melted soap for the washing by using bits and pieces and ends of soap which have been left. Cut them fine, and shave up as much more as is necessary, or buy soap chips for the purpose. Place the soap in an earthen jar, just cover with water, and set the jar in the oven or on the stove until the soap is melted or dissolved. Use in the proportion of one gallon of water to one-fourth pound of soap. This should be prepared the day before the family washing is to be done.

Portable tubs are usually made of wood or of galvanized iron. A wooden tub is heavy to handle and requires special care in dry weather to prevent its falling apart but it holds the wringer well and is easily kept clean. A galvanized iron tub is light, and not difficult to clean but does not hold the wringer unless fitted with wooden cleats and clamped to the wash bench.

Washboards are in different patterns and made of different materials. A wooden washboard probably injures the cloths as little as any kind, but is rather unpleasant to use unless one is accustomed to it. In selecting a glass or metal-covered board, choose one that is not too much corrugated, because many angles wear clothes as they glide over them.

When the washing is finished the washboard should be washed, wiped dry, and put away in a clean, dry place.

Each part of the wringer should be perfectly clean. When through using it each time, the rollers should be wiped with a dry cloth, or if much soiled, they should be rubbed with a cloth wet with turpentine or kerosene, washed with soapsuds, rinsed, and wiped dry.

When clothes have been well washed in one suds, they can usually be made clean and white by placing them in tepid suds, bringing to the boiling point, and allowing them to boil for a few minutes.

There are a few points to be remembered in preparing clothes for boiling. They must not stop boiling after they begin, and when taken into tepid water from the boiler each piece, must be punched under the water as soon as put into the tub. Exposure to the air seems to set the dirt, and cold water contracts the fibers, thus holding the dust particles, instead of allowing them to fall out, as they should when the clothes are rinsed or manipulated in this water, preparatory to the rinse water proper.

Obstinate stains on white goods may sometimes be removed by soaking the spot in turpentine, then washing, boiling, and finishing.

Clothes lines are of different kinds, and may be either movable or stationary. There are several patterns of clothes pins, but the plain, simple ones are usually most satisfactory, as they are inexpensive, easily washed when dirty, and do their work very well.

And, then the clean clothes need to be ironed . . .

Remodeling of Church Completed

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

Sunday, August 9, 1914:  Went to Sunday school this afternoon. Our church is fixed up at last. It’s quite a satisfaction now to look around and admire the pretty walls and ceiling. It was pretty warm today. The seats had been varnished. Was afraid I might stick fast, but I didn’t. Came home and found Ruthie a lazying around in her room. Her excuse was, ‘twas too hot to go to church.”

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

I bet the pews in Grandma’s church were shinier than these . . . Hmm, now that I’m thinking about it, Grandma said “seat”, not “pews”. Did she mean pews, and was just using imprecise language?

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

The remodeling of the McEwensville Baptist Church took a month and a half. At the beginning of the process, on June 22, 1914, Grandma wrote:

Had quite a time at rubbing and washing today, and it wasn’t here at home either. We are going to have the church fixed over, and it was necessary to wash off the walls. One girl upset her bucket of water off a step ladder. Had to laugh. I was up near the ceiling, and my laughing made me dizzy. Came down off that ladder and staid down. Didn’t want a fate like the bucket.

The remodeled church sounds lovely with pretty walls and ceiling—and shiny varnished seats. Yet, I feel a twinge of sadness, because I know that the church will soon begin its final decline since, in 1939, in her History of McEwensville, Agnes Beard wrote:

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

An Upcoming Trip

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

Friday, August 7, 1914:  Florence and I walked to Watsontown this afternoon. She couldn’t stay till train time. Ma wanted me to go to Milton to get her teeth. It was nice and breezy riding down on the car.

Hope Mother dear doesn’t see this. Something would happen if she did. I bought a brownie. It is a little over a week e’er we go to Niagara Falls, and well the temptation was too great. I didn’t want Ruthie to lay her eyes on that package. She has such a way of divining things. I left Mr. Package under a cherry tree, where I felt sure it would not been seen. After dark I smuggled it into the house and up to my room.

1909 Kodak Brownie Camera*

1909 Kodak Brownie Camera (Manufactured: 1909-1915)

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

Wow, Grandma, there’s a lot in this diary entry. You’re getting downright wordy.

Niagara Falls! You’re going to Niagara Falls! Last spring you wrote that you went to Williamsport—which is only 20 miles away—for the first time in your life. And, now you’re going all the way to Niagara Falls! Awesome!. . . Tell us more.

Is the “brownie” a camera? Why would your mother have been angry if she’d known you’d purchased it? You have so much fun taking, and developing, photos. In my humble opinion, you definitely need to new camera to record the trip.

See any cherry trees?DSC04327


Ruth (or Ruthie in this diary entry) was Grandma’s sister. I have no idea who Florence was. This is a new name in the diary.


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