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.

Spring Chores the Same from Day to Day

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

Tuesday, May 6, 1913: These days of spring bring to me the same tasks which vary little from one day to another.

Cover of Kimball's Dairy Farmer Magazine (August 15, 1913)

Cover of Kimball’s Dairy Farmer Magazine (August 15, 1913)

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

Sounds boring. What were the tasks that needed to be done every day?

  • watching cows to ensure that they didn’t escape from the pasture?
  •  milking the cows?
  • gathering the eggs?
  • feeding the farm animals?
  •  planting the garden?
  • cooking?
  • cleaning closets and other spring housecleaning chores?  (Does anyone do spring housecleaning anymore?)

Got Proofs of Graduation Photos

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

Monday, May 5, 1913:  Got my proofs this morning. In one I look rather mad. Cleaned a closet this afternoon. Expect to get some more of it tomorrow.

helen_muffly2a

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

It didn’t take Grandma long to get the proofs. Her graduation pictures were taken on May 1.

I love the pensive expression on Grandma’s face on the picture she selected. I wonder if she was pleased with this photo. . . and, what she looked like in the picture where she looked rather mad.

I hope that you don’t mind that I’ve posted Grandma’s graduation photo several times—but it seemed like it was such an important part of today’s diary entry and I didn’t want to make you dig through old posts to find it.

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.

Graduation Picture Taken

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

Thursday, April 30, 1913:

Where the trees put on their green,

When the flowers unfold in beauty

When all nature seems to sing,

Then we know that May is on duty.

Mother and I went to Milton this morning. Shouldn’t everybody notice but what she gets tired of carting me along and buying me things.

I had my pictures taken in the same outfit I wore at commencement, so now I will sure know what I looked like when I graduated.

helen_muffly2a 

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

Grandma—Thank you for getting the picture taken.  Now not only you—but also all of us—are able to see how lovely you looked in your graduation dress.

What did you “need” when you were shopping that your mother found annoying?

Monthly Poem

Another month has passed—and, as usual, Grandma began the month with a poem. This poem particularly resonates with me.

Nature is beginning to sing outside my window, and the flowers are beginning to unfold their beauty.

The Runaway Horse

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

Wednesday, April 30, 1913:  I saw a horse running off this morning, and was rather shocked to see it land in a ditch, where it staid until it was yanked out.

The Runaway Coach by Thomas Rowlandson (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Runaway Coach by Thomas Rowlandson (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

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

Runaway horses were scary and dangerous. I can remember elderly relatives telling stories at family gatherings when I was a child of people who were gravely injured by runaway horses. Fortunately, even though Grandma was shocked, it sounds like all ended well that morning.

Click here to see a fun, old, short, silent movie called The Runaway Horse that is available on YouTube.

An Evening with Friends

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

Tuesday, April 29, 1913:  Ruth and I went up to Oakes this evening. Made a trip up to McEwensville this afternoon.

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

Grandma and her sister Ruth probably had a fun evening with friends. The Oakes family lived on a nearby farm and had several children close in age to Grandma and her sister Ruth.  Rachel Oakes is often mentioned in the diary. Rachel had a least two brothers—James and Alvin.

To visit the Oakes, Grandma and her sister would have taken the road that went past their home–and gone up the hill in the opposite direction from the way they’d go if heading into McEwensville.

To visit the Oakes, Grandma and her sister would have taken the road that went past their home–and gone up the hill in the opposite direction from the way they’d go if heading into McEwensville.

DSC02314

They would have continued down the road past this farm.

Recent view of the farm where the Oakes lived.

And, then they would have turned down a lane to this farm where Rachel Oakes and her siblings lived.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 830 other followers