Flagged Train Down with Lantern

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

Saturday, March 7, 1914:  Nothing doing. Saw Mistress Ruth off on the train tonight. It was late, so I took the lantern down to act for a signal.


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

Where was Grandma’s sister Ruth going?

Tracks for the Susquehanna, Bloomsburg, and Berwick Railroad  crossed the Muffly farm. There was a flag stop at a feed mill called Truckenmiller’s Mill which bordered the farm. The route went from Watsontown to McEwensville and Turbotville and then continued east to Washingtonville, Bloomsburg, and Berwick.


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

Sometimes the diary entries give me powerful visual images. In my mind,  I see two young women, standing beside a dark mill on a cold, cloudy moonless night waiting for the train.

And, then the train lights appear in the distance.  As the train approaches, Grandma wildly swings the lantern, while Ruth frets that the train might not stop. . . .but it slowly rolls to a stop and Ruth vanishes into the train. . . . and Grandma slowly walks home with the lantern lighting the way.


Garages a Hundred Years Ago

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

Wednesday, March 4, 1914:  Same as ever.

1914-04-107-cHere is a garage which, though simple in design, has been made attractive by careful consideration of details. The stonework gives the impression of strength and durability, and the use of long double casements is unusual.

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

Since Grandma still was in a rut when it came to writing diary entries, I’m going to share some fun drawings of garages that I found in the April 1914 issue of Ladies Home Journal.

I was absolutely amazed that enough people apparently had cars a hundred years ago that the magazine decided to do an article garage design ideas.

1914-04-107-aThe exterior of this garage, with the rough plaster base, shingled walls, and the broad low roof, harmonizes with the bungalow to which it belongs.

1914-04-107-dThis garage was planned for the motor enthusiast who also loves gardening. At one end is a spacious tool and work shed.

1914-04-107-eThis garage is well-designed and inexpensive. The pent roof is not necessary, but keeps it from being commonplace.

1914-04-107-gExcellent judgment was used in the selection of the site, the choice of materials, and in the general design of this garage, which opens directly on the street.

Went to Senior Class Play

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

Saturday, February 28, 1914:  Ruth and I went up to Watsontown with Pa this evening. The senior class gave their play in the opera house. Was the best one I ever was to. Some parts certainly did call forth plenty of laughter. Can hardly begin to describe how much I enjoyed it. After seeing this I don’t feel so put out over the party. Perhaps it’ll be some other time.

I'm not sure where the Opera House was located, but here is a recent picture of downtown Watsontown.

I’m not sure where the Opera House was located, but here is a recent picture of downtown Watsontown.

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

What a fun evening! And, a what nice way to end the week after the disappointment over the canceled sleighing party the previous day.

According to My Watsontown there were 12 students who graduated from Watsontown High School in 1914—6 males and 6 females. Grandma graduated the previous year from McEwensville High School–and was part of a graduating class of 6.

It’s interesting that Grandma and her sister Ruth went to the play with their father (though it probably meant that both girls were very well behaved. . . . absolutely no flirting. . . but it didn’t seem to reduce their enjoyment).

I don’t think that Grandma’s father has ever previously been mentioned in the diary in conjunction with a social activity. In fact, he’s seldom mentioned at all —though his presence hovers in the background of many entries. I get the sense that he was a busy farmer who probably isn’t very involved in the daily household activities.

Sleighing Party Fell Through

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

Friday, February 27, 1914:  Was badly disappointed today. All week had been enjoying the anticipation of going to a sleighing party this evening, but the reality will never be realized as the thing fell through.

Weather Station Data Sheet, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, February, 1914

Weather Station Data Sheet, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, February, 1914

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

Grandma, I’m so sorry. You were so excited when you got a “bid to a party” last week-end.

Did you cry? I can remember how I cried for hours when a date fell through when I was a teen.  It hurts!

What happened? My first thought was that the weather was too warm, and that the snow had melted.

But, I’m not sure—the 27th was a relatively warm day, but there still was snow on the ground.

I found the weather station data for February, 1914 for Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Williamsport is about 20 miles from McEwensville.

On February 27, the high temperature was 46 degrees—but there was still 12 inches of snow on the ground. Williamsport is a little further north  than McEwensville, and in a more mountainous area, so the snow cover may have been a little less at McEwensville—but it still seems like there would have been enough for a sleigh ride

Maybe something else happened. . . but what?

If you would like to find old weather station data for other cities and dates, see the following previous post:

How to Find the Temperature for Any City on Any Date in the U.S.

Edith Wharton’s Description of an Old-time Lecture

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

Thursday, February 26, 1914:  Ruth and I went up to the Institute held in the town hall this evening. Told some things I had heard before, so they really weren’t new to me.


The Institute may have been held at the McEwensville Community Hall.

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

Today people listen to TED talks online for information and inspiration.  A hundred years ago there were institutes and traveling lecturers who entertained and educated the people who attended their presentations.

Grandma attended several lectures during the previous few months. For example, on December 9, 1913 she wrote:

Went to a lecture with Ruth this evening in Watsontown. Fortunately we didn’t have to walk. We rode in a carriage. The lecture was real good and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Edith Wharton wrote a short story more than a hundred years ago called The Pelican about a young widow who became a lecturer.  Here’s  how a lecture was described in the story:

The only way of paying her husband’s debts and keeping the baby clothed was to be intellectual; and, after some hesitation as to the form her mental activity was to take, it was unanimously decided that she was to give lectures. They began by being drawing-room lectures.

The first time I saw her she was standing by the piano, against a flippant background of Dresden china and photographs, telling a roomful of women preoccupied with their spring bonnets all she thought she knew about Greek art. The ladies assembled to hear her had given me to understand that she was “doing it for the baby,” and this fact, together with the shortness of her upper lip and the bewildering co-operation of her dimple, disposed me to listen leniently to her dissertation. Happily, at that time Greek art was still, if I may use the phrase, easily handled: it was as simple as walking down a museum-gallery lined with pleasant familiar Venuses and Apollos.

You can find The Pelican on The Literature Network website.

Hundred-Year-Old Bird Drawings

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

Monday, February 23, 1914:  Nothing hardly worthwhile.


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


For crying out loud, how can nothing be happening when you got invited to a party yesterday?  The party’s on Friday—aren’t you thinking about what you’ll wear? . . . what you say? . . .

At least you could have told us about everyday events. . . even if it’s boring stuff because I’d find it interesting.

For example, what birds did you see and hear today? I heard a woodpecker pecking (hopefully not on my house) today. Are there woodpeckers on your farm?

And, this time of year the trees in my yard are often filled with noisy crows. Are there crows cawing in your yard?


Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today, I share some pictures from a book of birds published in 1914.


Crow: These birds, against which the hand of every farmer is uplifted, are very shy and cunning, as is well-known, they nearly always post a sentinel in some tree top to keep watch while the rest of the flock is feeding in the field below. In the fall and winter, large numbers of them flock, and at night all roost in one piece of woods.


Screech Owl: This well-known species, which is often called “Little Horned Owl” because of its ear tuffs. They nest anywhere in hollow trees, being found very frequently in decayed stubs of apple trees. They also often nest in barns or other old buildings which are not frequented too freely. Their food consists chiefly of mice and meadow moles, and occasionally small birds.


Chickadee: The Chickadee is too well known to need any description; suffice it to say that they are the favorites with everyone among all the North American birds.

The Bird Book (1914) by Chester A. Reed

Got a Bid to a Party

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

Sunday, February 22, 1914:  Went to Sunday school this afternoon. We had church. Got a bid to a party next Fri.

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

DSC07045The Baptist Church that Grandma attended is long gone. I think that it once stood on either the lot where the modular home is now or the vacant lot next to it.


Yeah! “He” finally asked you out.

I learned several things from this diary entry.

I learned a new meaning for the word “bid”.  According to the dictionary, one of the definitions of bid is “an invitation.” Does anyone use bid that way anymore?

And, (though I can’t be positive because of the way Grandma worded her diary entry), I think that I learned that the guy Grandma liked attended her church.

Sometimes I’m absolutely amazed how commenters on this blog have premonitions about future events in the diary before I do.

I never work very far ahead writing posts. Occasionally I get 5 or 10 days ahead—other times I’m writing them the day before they’re posted.

I’m writing this post two hours before I post it—and I’m amazed how several commenters realized before I did that the guy Grandma liked went to her church.

On February 15 Grandma wrote:

Didn’t get to Sunday School this morning as the road is not much broken. Felt quite vexed about it as I didn’t want to miss more than what I could possibly help.

Here are two comments that people made on that post: Allysonj wrote:

I wonder if she is eager to get to Sunday school because of the Valentine she missed earlier in the week – maybe the sender will be there.

And, Catherine wrote:

I also wondered if the reason Miss Muffly did not want to miss Sunday school was because of a “love” interest there…

Thank you– Allysonj, Catherine, and everyone else who takes a few moments to help me try to make sense of the diary. You’re awesome!


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