A Hundred Years Ago is 10 Years Old!!

image of Jan. 1, 2011 post of A Hundred Years Ago
January 1, 2011 post of A Hundred Years Ago

A Hundred Years Ago hit a milestone today. It’s 10 years old. I did the very first post on January 1, 2011. When I started this blog, my goal was to do it for four years – but I wasn’t sure that it would last more than a month.

My grandmother, Helena Muffly, kept a diary from January 1, 1911- December 31, 1914 when she was a teen living on a farm in central Pennsylvania. The blog’s original purpose was to post my grandmother’s diary entries a hundred years to the day after she wrote them to share with family members. I also often posted additional information to explain and flesh out some of the entries. I planned to do a post every day during the four years of the diary. But, that felt very ambitious to me – and I thought I’d burn out quickly.

Was I ever wrong-

I had a blast researching and preparing the posts. And, over time more and more people found A Hundred Year Ago, and enjoyed reading about my grandmother’s daily experiences.

After I posted the last diary entry on December 31, 2014, I discovered that I missed blogging. So, about eight month later, I reinvented A Hundred Years Ago as a place to post recipes and other tidbits about food and cooking a hundred years ago. And, the rest is history.

Some of you have been with A Hundred Years Ago since almost the beginning; others have been part of this blogging community for a few years, months, or days. Thank you! I’m humbled by your caring and support across the years. I am so fortunate to have wonderful readers like you.

In case you’re interested, here’s the very first post:

Christmas and New Years Day

Posted on January 1, 2011 by Sheryl

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

Mid ice and snow,

and wintry glow

The happy new year rings.

So now I’ll commence,

And not with pretense,

My diary of interesting things

Sunday, January 1, 1911: The old year has passed, and the new year is ushered in with its joys and possibilities. To me the old year has been quite a pleasant one. May this year be as pleasant. Christmas brought me no fatal grievances, and it really proved to be enjoyable and merry. I received quite a small number of Christmas presents although none of them were very costly. Judging none of them to exceed the modest price of fifty cents. (By this no one should think I am ungrateful for I really mean to be a grateful girl.)

This afternoon I went to Sunday school and attended catechize after church. On my way home I received a charming new year’s gift. (Thanks to the donor.) The first day of the new year is almost spent and I feel rather sad.

Honey Popcorn Balls Recipe

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

Monday, January 29, 1912:  It is hard to study when you don’t feel like it. Don’t know what will become of myself if I don’t get aroused pretty soon.

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

Perhaps Grandma made a snack while she was trying to motivate herself to study.

Popcorn was a very popular winter snack a hundred years ago. A few weeks ago I made old-fashioned Caramel Popcorn.  I enjoyed it so much, that I decided to make another old-time popcorn snack—Honey Popcorn Balls.

Honey Popcorn Balls

approximately 1 1/2 quarts popped popcorn

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup water

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

Put popped corn in a large bowl and set aside. Cook honey, sugar, water, and butter to a medium-crack stage (280 degrees).  Remove from heat and stir in salt; pour over the corn and stir with a spoon to coat the kernels.

Grease hands with butter. Firmly press coated popcorn into balls.  Lay balls on waxed paper until cool. If the balls will be stored, wrap in waxed paper.

These popcorn balls have an awesome rich honey flavor. (They are nothing like the horrid, stale popcorn balls that I occasionally see in stores.)

I used some alfalfa honey that I got at an Amish market to make these balls—but any honey will work.  I love the flavor of the light alfalfa honey, but think it would also be fun to experiment and make them again with a darker honey.  Maybe next week. . . .

Found photos of Ruth, Bill, Jimmie, Rachel, and Blanche!!

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

Wednesday, June 7, 1911: Can take a rest now since the hurrying, scurrying has subsided in part.

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

A hundred years ago today was the day after a big event. The previous day, the addition to the Muffly barn was raised.

Since this entry doesn’t take much explanation, I’m going to share some photos of five people mentioned in the diary that I didn’t previously have photos of.  As I’ve worked on this blog, I’ve so often wondered what Grandma’s sister Ruth (and to a lesser extent the others) looked like. Now I know.

Lois Everitt recently shared her copy of an awesome book with me: The History of McEwensville Schools: 1800-1958 by Thomas S. Kramm. The book contained photos of Grandma’s sister Ruth, her brother Jimmie, her friends Rachel Oakes and Blanche Bryson, and Ruth’s future husband Bill (Willliam) Gauger. I contacted Mr. Kramm and he very generously allowed me to include the photos in this blog. (Lois and Tom—Thank you!! I couldn’t do this blog without wonderful people like you sharing materials and information with me. )

Now the photos:

Grandma's sister: Ruth Muffly (1913)
Ruth's future husband: Bill (William) Gauger (1913)
Grandma's brother: Jimmie Muffly (1915)
Grandma's friend; Rachel Oakes (1913)
Grandma's friend, Blanche Bryson (1913)

Ruth, Rachel, Blanche, and Bill  were teachers. Rachel was the elementary teacher at McEwensville. Ruth and Blanche were teachers at one-room school houses in the surrounding area. Bill was the teacher at McEwensville High School from 1913-15. A hundred years ago teachers were not required to have college degrees. For example, Ruth graduated from McEwensville High School in spring 1911—and she was already teaching elementary school by Fall 1911.

The picture of Jimmie is from a 1915 school photo of students at McEwensville School.

I’ve also added these photos to the People page.

It feels good to be able to cross five names off my list of photos that I’m searching for–though the quest never quite ends. I’m still looking for photos of Grandma’s father (Alfred Muffly), her oldest sister (Besse Muffly Hester), and two friends (Carrie Stout, Helen “Tweet” Wesner). If anyone has a photo of any of these people–and is willing to share, send it my way and I’d be happy to post.

Aha!–Sometimes Wrote Two Entries on One Day

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

Tuesday, May 9, 1911:  By jingo if I haven’t forgotten what I did today. Just what I did several days ago. You see, sometimes it happens that I don’t always feel like writing in this diary every evening, so I wait until the next evening and make two entries at one time.

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

Aha!—just as I thought. Grandma did sometimes write a diary entry the following day.  For example, on Feb 23 she had written about going to sleep and then the entry on the 24th talked about waking up. It just seemed as if both entries had actually been written on the 24th.

The Minor and Major Players

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

Thursday, February 23, 1911: We had quite a gathering here this evening. Jake and the senior class were down for supper and to spend the evening. Only the girls staid all night. Besse was out, but she went home shortly after supper was over. Rachel and her brother (I mean her nice brother) arrived upon the scene shortly afterwards. We spent the evening playing cards. I played part of the time. I made some of the most blundering mistakes, you see, I am a greeny. I ate so much ice cream that I got a pain and it was an awful one, but it didn’t last very long. Thank goodness. Well after Bill and that teacher of mine took their departure, we four girls journeyed off up stairs where we talked and laughed for about an hour and a half before we could make up our minds to go to bed. At last we cuddled down to sleep. Ruth slept with Blanche and I slept with Edith, a bride elect. I felt quite honored.

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

There are lots of names in today’s posting—some that appear throughout the diary and others that appear in this posting and then quickly vanish from the diary pages. One of the challenges of working on family history is figuring out who all of the people are when many names are mentioned–and sometimes I wonder if it even matters if I never figure out who some of the tangential characters are since they play such minor roles in the story that is emerging. And secondary sources don’t always agree with what is in the diary— Ah, the challenge (and the fun) of working with primary family history sources.

The best place to get background information about the major people in the diary is on the People page. But today I’m going to try to sort out all of the names in this posting:

Grandma’s sister Ruth was a senior at McEwensville High School and she apparently invited the teacher and entire class out to dinner. (The entire class probably had 6 or 8 members. There were 6 people in Grandma’s graduating class two years later.) Jake–Grandma referred to him as Jakie in previous postings– was the teacher. I don’t know his last name. As I mentioned in a previous posting, according to Leon Hagenbuch in his History of McEwensville, Howard Northrop was the teacher during the 1910-11 school year—I sure can’t get anything close to Jake out of that name and I want to guess that the information in the History is incorrect but I could be wrong.

Besse is Grandma’s oldest sister. She was married and must have come just come to help with the party.

The Rachel mentioned in this entry is Rachel Oakes. She lived nearby and was a friend of Grandma and Ruth. Rachel must have been a little older than Ruth because in 1911 she was the elementary school teacher at McEwensville. Based on later entries Rachel had at least two brothers: James and Alvin. Both are mentioned several times in the diary and apparently were close in age to Grandma and Ruth. I’m not sure which one was the “nice brother” who was a member of the class of 1911.

And, based on other diary entries I’m guessing that the Bill in this entry referred to Bill Gauger. He later married Ruth.

Both Blanche and Edith must have been members of the senior class. Blanche refers to Blanch Bryson. She is mentioned only two or three times in the diary–and always just in passing. She apparently was not a particularly close friend of the Muffly girls.

And, I don’t know what Edith’s maiden name was, but a little later in the diary she marries Harry Reynolds. Edith is mentioned several times over the next few months and then her name disappears from the remaining diary pages. Soon after her marriage she apparently moved into a different circle of friends that probably was made up of married couples.

Which church did Grandma attend?

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

Sunday, February 5, 1911: Went to Sunday school this morning. Went to church this evening with Ruth. It was rather quiet today. Everything seemed so quiet.

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

There are so many pieces to the jig-saw puzzle that make up our ancestors’  lives. Questions like, “Which church did Grandma attend?” probably aren’t very important in the bigger scheme of things—but I’m curious. I asked my father. I searched for member records in church histories and other supplemental documents. However, the available data were inconclusive, and I still don’t definitively know the answer.

Based on a scan of the diary I can’t find any place where Grandma said which church she attended—though the diary entries indicate that she faithfully attended Sunday school. There were two or three churches in McEwensville one hundred years ago: St. John’s Reformed Church, Messiah Lutheran— and maybe a Baptist Church.

In the diary Grandma mentions the Lutheran and Reformed churches by name when she visits them—but she provides no church name when she attended her regular church. This suggests that she didn’t attend either of those churches–but  rather that she went to the Baptist one. However, I’m somewhat uncomfortable with that conclusion since I know that the Baptist church closed early in the 20th century. Agnes Beard wrote in 1939 in her History of McEwensville

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

Agnes Beard (1939)

Prior to reading Grandma’s diary I never thought about her religious beliefs. After she married Raymond Swartz she attended Messiah Lutheran Church. I don’t remember Grandma ever discussing religion—and was somewhat surprised that she probably was raised in a somewhat more conservative tradition than what she practiced as an adult.

Recent photo of building that once housed Messiah Lutheran Church.

As an older woman Grandma enjoyed visiting with friends in the “old ladies Sunday School class” at Messiah Lutheran.  Both Grandma and Helen “Tweet” Wesner were in that class. Tweet never married and lived her entire life in McEwensville. It’s kind of cool how life-long friendships and relationships developed in this small community.

Monthly Poem in Diary

15-year-old Helena wrote a hundred years ago today:

Wednesday, February 1, 1911.

One month come and gone,

And the month of February has dawned.

Though it be the shortest month of the year,

Yet I do not suppose that all would oppose.

From enjoying its good years cheer.

I got a ride to school this morning, though the walking was perfectly fine! I got some candy of Jimmie’s tonight (he had quite a bit too much for a boy of his size so I relieved him of some).

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

The diary was written in a blank lined paper book. Each month of the diary begins with a poem. I wonder if Grandma wrote the poems or if she got them out of a book or magazine.

A hundred years ago poetry was much more popular than it is now.  Magazines such as Ladies Home Journal included entire pages of poetry.  Students were regularly required to memorize poems and teachers had poetry books that they used as sources for these poems. Pamphlets were printed by various religious denominations that contained poems which Sunday School children could memorize and then present.

This month’s poem doesn’t really work for me—and maybe Grandma wrote it—though I’m guessing that she got these monthly poems from other some source. I’ll probably never know for sure.

This is the first time that Jimmie is mentioned in the diary. He was Grandma’s six-year-old brother.