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

Sunday, November 23, 1913: Went to Sunday School this morning. The Lutherans gave a thank offering this evening. Was present.

Harold Swartz (1923 - 2013) reading printed-off copies of A Hundred Years Ago posts.
Harold Swartz (1923 – 2013) reading printed-off copies of A Hundred Years Ago posts.

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

The recent series of posts that I did on the death and funeral of Grandma’s grandfather were really difficult for me. They hit too close to home.

All month I’ve gone back and forth about how much to share about my personal life –and how much to keep it separate from the happenings a hundred years ago. I think that I’m now ready to share.

My 90-year-old father, Harold Swartz, passed away on October 31, 2013. He was Helena’s son.

During early November I barely managed to do the daily posts (and sometimes wondered if I should even be trying) — but somehow I felt like Dad wanted me to do them.

Then, on November 19, I got to the spot in the diary where Grandma’s grandfather died. I dreaded writing that post—and when I calculated that he was also 90 years old. . . .whew.

Dad was one of the reasons that I started this blog. I did it to give me things to talk about with him, and it was an activity we enjoyed doing together.

During the first year or so of the blog, every time I visited Dad, we’d go on car rides to take pictures of places that Grandma mentioned in the diary. I learned so much about Grandma (and Dad) during those trips.

Most mornings I called Dad. We’d often discuss upcoming diary entries. Sometimes, particularly when Grandma wrote about agricultural topics, Dad would help me figure out what she was talking about. For example, on June 24, 1911 she wrote:

 . . . Have to carry the hay rope now.  Such fun.

And, here is what I wrote:

My father guesses that Grandma was half carrying and half dragging the hay rope to keep the horse from inadvertently stepping on it.

Dad said that when he was young there were pulleys on a track that ran down the center of the inside of the barn roof. Depending upon where the farmer wanted to pile the hay the pulleys would be moved along the track.  A young man with excellent balance would climb up onto a beam in the barn rafters and move the pulleys along the track as needed.

One end of the rope was attached to a large clamp (hay hook) that was used to pick up a large bunch of loose hay from the wagon.

The rope went then went through the pulley system—and the other end of the rope was attached to a horse. On command the horse walked forward and the pulleys lifted the hay into the mow.

The hay was then released and the rope went limp and a portion of it would fall to the barn floor. The horse would then be walked back to the original position and the process would be repeated.


My father says that when he was a child, the adult men did the heavy work, and the children did the easier jobs. His older sister Marjorie would lead the  horse as it pulled the hay upward—and then circle it back to the original position after the hay was released.

And my father would pick up the rope when it fell to the floor after the hay was released and keep it away from the horse’s feet. Dad says that if a horse stepped on the rope it would damage it by breaking some of the strands. Then there would be the risk of the damaged rope breaking, which might result in a dangerous accident if it broke while the hay was being lifted.

Dad, I miss you! Without your assistance, this blog won’t be quite as rich.

98 thoughts on “Dad

  1. I’m so sorry for your loss, Sheryl!
    And I feel your pain when reading this. My mother died in April 2009 and in moments like this, it all feels fresh again.
    I do genealogy and I asked my mother many many questions about the past and long gone family members. At first and sometimes still, I feel her being gone from this world especially, when I work on old family documents and such. It hurts. But over time it got better. I miss her all the time, but the times we did talk about family memories are so precious and uplifting, it is a treasure. And there is sadness, but I have these precious memories.
    Reading you writing about your father, I recognise my own sadness. I wish you a lot of strength for your healing process. I can assure you, as hard as it is, you too will cherish the treasure chest of memories you two shared in years to come.
    Sending you lots of good thoughts, Sheryl. Be well!

    1. Your thoughtful and caring words are very helpful. They help me think about treasuring precious memories and moving forward into the healing process. Thank you.

  2. Dear Sheryl
    What you share with us today is truly special. It is wonderful to see a photo of your father enjoying your blog. And, wonderful that we have enjoyed part of the journey with him. Was he surprised at the interest in his mother’s life that came from all over the world?
    Take care of yourself and thank you for continuing to blog in very difficult circumstances. With sympathy and warm wishes, Gallivanta.

    1. Thank you for your kind thoughts during this difficult time. Dad never get the hang of a computer, and always read the blog via printed off copies, so I don’t think that he ever was fully aware of how many people were reading it.

      Other relatives and family friends have been very surprised how many people read it. People thought of Grandma as a fairly quiet mother, grandmother, and homemaker–and are amazed what an intriguing person she was in her younger days.

      1. Very intriguing, was your grandmother! I think it must have been very satisfying for your father to hold that folder of blog posts. If I could think of a way to print out my posts ( cost effectively) I would probably do so. I can imagine my mother enjoying flipping through the pages. I would enjoy it too!

        1. I just copied the text on my WordPress site using the “control C” function–and put it into a Word document. I then enlarged the font to 14 pt. so that it would be easier for Dad to read, and printed it off on punched notebook paper. I would wait until I had several posts to print, and would then sent them to Dad (or take them if I was going to see him). He could then insert them into a notebook I gave him. Sometimes other people helped him get them into the notebook.

          The formatting wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough to read and Dad was happy with it.

  3. Hi Sheryl what a lovely, strong and comfortable man your father looks. I think this sharing together of childhood stories, knowledge, experience is the most effective and wonderful way of preserving any thing about the past, and the work, research both of you have done are surely a treasured heirloom to be passed on and shared by future generations. My sincerest condolences, I can it help thinking that there is so much of your father in you, that you will find this a great strength in the future. God bless.

  4. I’m so sorry for your loss. That is very sad news. I can see why you have been finding this very emotionally difficult in recent weeks. I think it’s great that you and your dad have been doing this project together. No doubt you will treasure the memories of the times you have both spent on it, and all the things you’ve learned about your father and grandmother.

    I completely love this blog and I’m so glad you do it. If I remember rightly, I stumbled upon it around the time that I lost my own beloved grandmother and reading this somehow brought me comfort. Coming from an agricultural background, myself, I love to compare and contrast the different countryside and farming cultures there and here over the decades.

    I wish you well in the weeks to come. I think it is wonderful that you have compiled such a wonderful collection of memories and information about your family for your own knowledge. And I also thank you for generously sharing it, too.

    1. I greatly appreciate your kind and caring thoughts. You were one of the earlier people to discover this blog–and I feel like I’ve gotten to know you over the years. It’s very helpful to know how some of the agricultural posts that I did with Dad’s help particularly resinated with you.

  5. A month ago I found your blog and have been reading it every day since then, enjoying your grandmother’s diary and your comments about it. I’m so sorry to learn about the death of your father and it surely has been difficult for you to continue with your posts this month. Thank you for sharing them with us but especially for letting us know about your personal loss and how your dad was one of the reasons you starting writing. What a beautiful tribute to your dad and his mother, and what a loving act to do for him as the two of you relived some of his past years. He was blessed to have such a sensitive, loving daughter. Please accept my condolences.

  6. I am so very sorry about your loss. Your beautiful post today was a wonderful tribute. My uncle passed at 90 this year on his birthday. He had been my father’s twin. My father passed about 45 year earlier so my uncle had been like a father. Here’s to a rich full and long life.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. And, I’d like to extend my condolences to you. Your uncle sounds like he was a wonderful person, who played a key role in your life. Working on family history makes very aware of the linkages across time and generations. Here’s to a rich, full, and long life.

  7. Oh, Sheryl, I am so very sorry about your dad. How wonderful that he was able to help you with Grandma’s diary. I can imagine how proud he was of you for sharing it with all of us.
    My deepest sympathy to you as you continue to mourn his passing.

  8. Thank you for sharing this, your blog is very special and something wonderful that you and your Dad built together. I know it won’t help, but I send my love and care to you. Much love xx

  9. Sheryl,
    Thank you for sharing this family wealth and the information you shared about your dad, Helena, son, is a dimension we all will appreciate. YOur blog is something quite special!!!

    1. Thank you very much. One of the things that I really enjoy about this blog is the way it enables me to go across time and generations. In the past, by working on a blog post, I could read the diary and think about my grandmother, talk with my father, and then share the stories electronically with my adult children. The process is different with Dad gone, but I have many precious memories of him as I work on the posts.

  10. Sheryl~ thank you for sharing your personal loss with us here. My sincere condolences to you, but also, something I believe: labors of love like this somehow transcend and transform who we think we are. They unite all the energy of family love that was and is, and time becomes both a practical catalyst and a mysterious entity that goes beyond our perceptions. I hope that you continue with this, knowing that your grandmother and your dad are still helping you along the way. I think when all is said and done, you’ll look back on this as one of your most amazing life achievements!

    1. Thank you for your comforting words. I know that it will take time, but I love the thought of the energy of family love serving as a catalyst to transcend and transform.

  11. Sheryl! This post was so touching and what a beautiful tribute to your father! You have a wonderful blog here and a lot of love flows through your words. Thank you for placing it out into the world, and my sincere blessings to you and your family.

  12. Sheryl, I’m so sorry for the loss of your beloved father. But I’m also happy for you because you have so many rich memories of him. Cherish them and draw strength from them in the days ahead.

  13. Sheryl, I’m so sorry for your loss. I love that your dad and you went through Helena’s journal together. I love this blog too and your commentary always adds so much to the story. HUGS!

  14. Thanks for sharing some of the more personal thought about you and your father and family. It does mean a lot to us as readers and draws us closer.

    Your account of the hay mechanism brought back my own memories of that process. When I was 10 or so, dad would hitch the Ford tractor to the rope instead of horses in earlier days. I would wait for a loud call ‘PULL UP’ from the other side of the barn. Hard to hear over the tractor noise. I’d pull slowly until I heard the clanking of metal forks or saw the jerking on the rope. Then, I would go in reverse slowly as the forks were pulled back to the door and were set for another lift. You could pull up 8-10 bales at a time.

    Thanks for the reminder of that old memory. It would have been fun to talk to your father and compare notes.

    1. You and my father would definitely have enjoyed talking with each other. He always loved talking about farming.

      I enjoyed your description of the process your family used to lift hay into the haymowes. You explained it so clearly. I could just picture what you described.

  15. I am very sorry for your loss. However you were blessed with many good years with your father. I know it is never enough. I hope in time his memory with be a warm embrace for you.

  16. At the time of your Father’s passing, I hoped you had worked ahead on the blog & wouldn’t be trying to keep everything else organized too. You have wonderful memories of both your Father and Grandmother to keep you going. Thanks for sharing them with all of us!

    1. I was only one day ahead on the blog when Dad passed–and many of the posts that I wrote in early November are now a blur. I wrote the first thing that came into my mind on most of those days–and hoped that it made at least minimal sense.

      Thank you, Janet, for your kind thoughts and words. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you, and reconnecting with your family. It’s been so much fun to share memories with others who knew some of the same people.

  17. This post really touched my heart. I am so sorry for your loss. How lovely that you were able to share the blogging experience and the diary with your Dad. And thank you so much for sharing it with us …

    1. Thank you for your condolences. I was very fortunate to have a father who had a good memory. When I started this blog, I thought that only a few family members and friends would read it. I have been surprised how many people have been interested in the diary of a teen who lived in rural Pennsylvania, and I really appreciate the caring words of kind people like you.

  18. Sheryl, I am sorry for the loss of your dad. My dad is 95 now and I cherish the time we have together when I ask him about old pictures and stories. I am sure you will always be glad for the memories you have of your dad telling you about the times long ago.

    1. Thank you for the condolences. I’m also glad that I continued to do the posts during this time period–though there were some days when it was very hard. I miss my dad greatly, but am getting back into my more normal routines–and am enjoying writing and researching the posts.

  19. Dear Sheryl, I am so sorry to hear that your father died. I really like the photos that you posted of him. I bet he loved this blog, Annie

    1. Thank you, Annie, for your kind words. He did really enjoy reading printed-off copies of the posts–and I think that he enjoyed accompanying me to take pictures for the blog, and talking about some of the diary entries to help figure out what they meant, even more.

  20. Oh, no! Such sad, sad news! It must’ve been very difficult for you in so many ways, even writing this post. I hope you feel you made the right decision–you can certainly see how much we all value you and the fact you were willing to share your loss with us.

    1. I appreciate your thoughtful, insightful comments. I’m glad I decided to share it. And, it actually felt good to write this post. Before I wrote it, it didn’t feel authentic to be ignoring something so major when I wrote for this blog–and now that I’ve shared my loss, it feels much better. I greatly appreciate all of the heartfelt condolence messages that readers have written. You and the other readers are wonderful, caring people. Thank you.

      1. One of the nicest surprises about blogging has been the friends I feel I have made! I’m glad you felt you made the right decision and found comfort in writing and in the responses.

  21. Sheryl, my thoughts are with you and your family. How wonderful that you and your dad were able to share so much while you wrote this blog. Please keep writing – I look forward to reading this blog every day.

    1. Elizabeth–Thank for so much for the condolences. You were one of the earliest readers of this blog–and I really appreciate how you’ve been here for me for both the successes and the difficult times. I definitely plan to continue writing. It will feel different, but I really look forward to working on the blog each day.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. In many ways, I felt like I got to know my dad better than I’d ever previously known him as we collaborated to take pictures for this blog and talked about the diary entries. I was very fortunate to have had my dad for these many years.

  22. Oh my. Sorry to hear of your dad’s transition. It must have been special to spend time with him discussing the diary and taking pictures of the places mentioned in her diary. May those sweet memories comfort you in the coming days and years. God bless you.

    1. Thank you for your kind thoughts and words. They help me think about the importance of treasuring these memories. I really value the opportunity that I had to spend time talking with Dad as I worked on A Hundred Years Ago.

      I feel like I’ve gotten to know you over the past few years via our blogs, and I greatly value blogging friends like you during this difficult time.

    1. Thank you for the condolences. I really appreciate your kind and caring words. I do greatly value my family–both those who came before me and those who follow. The linkages seem like they can somehow transcend time.

  23. Ah..such sadness, but it sounds like the diary was as important to him as it is to you. I hope you will continue, but that is totally selfish on my part because I enjoy the diary and can learn from it.
    My sympathy. Connie at Forgotten Old Photos

    1. Connie, thank you for your kind thoughts and words. It will be different without my dad but I definitely plan to continue posting the diary with my added comments. I think that my dad would want me to do that–and I’ve really enjoyed researching and writing the posts, and getting to know other wonderful bloggers like you.

  24. Sheryl,
    I’m so sorry about the loss of your dear father. What a wonderful way to spend his last year with you, working on the blog. He must have treasured that time spent with you on this family project so much. Hugs to you, Sheryl.

  25. Oh Sheryl, Thank you for sharing your Grandma and also your own personal connections. I continue to be amazed at how we can learn to know each other and feel connected through our blogs, but it is true. I hope you feel wrapped in love as you read all the comments here and know how you have touched so many lives with goodness. Your Grandma and Dad live on in your words and heart. My cousin David died this morning – I had just heard from the family befove I finished reading all of your blog. Thank you with hugs and prayers, RuthAnn

    1. I greatly appreciate your caring and heartfelt words. I can really sense how we are connected via the blogging community. The amount of love and caring extended by you and other bloggers has absolutely amazed me. I treasure my caring blogging friends. Thank you.

      My thoughts and prayers so out to you and your cousin’s family during this difficult time. Take care, Sheryl

  26. I’m sorry, too, Sheryl and thank you for sharing the story with us. I print out my blog for my husband’s parents and they put the episodes in a binder just like that! They are our goat “mentors” and get a kick out of our whole enterprise. I love your blog, and thank you for the physical and heart work of it. Harold sounds and looks like he was a sweet man. Helena done good. Hugs, Christi

    1. Christi–Thank your for the condolences. It sounds like we used similar processes to share our blogs with our parents/in-laws. We both are fortunate to have had caring relatives who can mentor us and enjoy our blogs.

  27. Oh Sheryl, how brave of you to keep going with the diary entries throughout your time of loss. He leaves you with memories to cherish, just as Helena does. Love to you, dear friend. xxx

  28. Oh Sheryl, I’m so sorry. I miss my parents every day and I wish I’d have had a project like yours to share with one of them. I’m sorry I haven’t commented sooner. My life has been so busy lately that I have not been blogging at all and am terribly behind in my blog reading.
    Again, my deepest condolences…

  29. Oh Sheryl, I am so terribly sorry to read about the loss of your father. It seems you and I lost our mothers and then our fathers at about the same times. Feeling your pain and sadness, but am happy you keep posting your grandmother’s words for us to enjoy and ponder. How wonderful that your father added his insight to her entries – I am sure his spirit will be with you as you continue your research and exploration of life as it was a hundred years ago. *hugs*

    1. Barbara, thank you so much. Yes, I think that we lost our mothers and then our fathers at about the same time. It’s been really helpful getting to know you via our blogs. I could relate to so many of the things that you wrote about your father. I especially remember that one of the first posts I ever read on your blog was the one about your father and the chestnut tree–and of how it so reminded me of my father and how he thought about his oak tree. It is wonderful to having blogging friends like you.

  30. Oh dear, I’m sure sorry to hear you’ve lost your dad Sheryl. That is a heartbreak. I can tell by your words how you enjoyed each others company. I bet seeing you and sharing family history chats was the hi-light of his days. You’re very brave to share your pain here. My dad passed away in 1999 and I can’t believe it’s been over 13 years. I wish we had camera phones back then, I might have like to have more photo’s or even video. I hope all you loving memories will ease your pain a little. Gentle hugs, Kelly

    1. Thank you for your kind thoughts and words. Technology has made it so much easier to stay in regular contact in recent years. My husband’s parents passed about 12 years ago, and he often commented that he was amazed how much easier it was for me to make regular phone calls to my dad than it had been for him when his parents were elderly.

  31. Sincere condolences Sheryl… It made me so very sad to hear of your dad’s passing, my Miss Muffly’s little boy… 😦 Just too sad.
    Much xxx and blessings coming your way.

  32. I’m sorry to learn of your father’s passing, Sheryl. What a treasure in your life to have been able to spend time with him discussing your grandmother’s diary entries and learning more about both his life and hers. He may be gone but the time he spend with you will give you many happy memories to cherish for years to come.

    1. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words. You’re right; the time that we spent together will give me many wonderful memories in future years.

  33. I am late to pipe in but I am very sorry to hear the loss of your dear Dad. I was happy to read that he would read your blog and you had him to discuss family. I am sure it brought both of you job to do this together. What a treasure! I had the opportunity to go with my mother and she would tell spontaneous stories of where this and that happened. You can’t replace that. I was very fortunate and so were you. BTW, your Dad was very handsome.

    1. Thank you for the condolences. We both were very fortunate to have parents who could share family stories with us. My father was good-looking for his age in his later years–and he was even more handsome when he was younger. 🙂

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