Lonesome with Sister Gone

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

Saturday, August 10, 1912: It didn’t rain this afternoon; it poured. Our front porch was a sight, sod covered it tonight. Ruth went up to Bryson’s on the train. Had to help her get ready. And now we’re here all alone, just we three. Seems so quiet and rather lonesome.

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

With a drought over much of the country this year, rain sounds wonderful (even if Grandma was less than enthusiastic about it). Did the wind somehow blow grass or weeds up on the porch?

The tracks for the Susquehanna, Bloomsburg, and Berwick Railroad went along the edge of the Muffly farm. Ruth probably got on the train at a nearby feed mill. There was a whistle stop there.

It’s funny how Grandma gets so frustrated with Ruth—yet almost immediately misses her when she goes somewhere. I guess that’s just the way things go with sisters.

Why does the diary entry refer to three people being at home? It seems like there should have been four: Grandma, her mother, her father, and her little brother Jimmie.

Rural “Mass Transit” a Hundred Years Ago

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

Saturday, January 20, 1912: Ruth and I went to Milton this afternoon. We both had our pictures taken. I hope mine won’t be any bigger than what I am, but I won’t know for a whole week yet.

Old postcard of South Front Street, Milton. (Source: Milton Historical Society, Used with permission.)

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

Sounds like Grandma was worried that she’d look heavy in the photo. I wonder if she’d gained weight over the holiday season.

The Muffly farm is about 6 miles from Milton—but the sisters probably used “mass transit” to get there.

Ruth and Grandma probably walked the two miles to Watsontown—or  maybe they took the train to Watsontown. (There was a whistle-stop for the Susquehanna Bloomsburg and Berwick Railroad at Truckenmiller’s Feed Mill which was located near their farm.) Once the sisters got to Watsontown they would have taken the trolley from Watsontown to Milton.

It amazes me how many transportation options were available in a relatively remote area of Pennsylvania a hundred years ago. And, how trolleys and passenger rail service vanished a little later in the 20th century as automobile ownership proliferated.

Missed the Visitors

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

Wednesday, October 18, 1911: Grandma and Aunt Alice were here today, but I didn’t get to see them because they had gone when I got home from school. We had a review in Latin today. An easy examination it was.

John and Sarah Derr Family. Taken about 1900. L to R. Front Row: John, Annie (Derr) Van Sant, Sarah. Back Row: Miles, Fuller, Alice (Derr) Krumm, Elmer, Phoebe (Derr) Muffly, Judson, Homer.

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

Grandma’s Aunt Alice was her mother’s (Phoebe Derr Muffly) sister. She was married to John Krumm and lived in Turbotville.

Alice is referred to as Mary Alice in official records, so she apparently went by her middle name. Based on information in the 1910 census on the Family Search website, she would have been 54-years-old in 1911 and was 5 years older than Phoebe.

Alice’s and Phoebe’s mother –and Grandma’s grandmother– was Sarah Derr. Sarah also lived in Turbotville, and was 70-years-old in 1911.

Turbotville is located about 4 miles northeast of the Muffly farm. The women may have come by horse and buggy—or may have taken the train.  The Susquehanna, Bloomsburg, and Berwick Railroad provided passenger service to Turbotville—and there was a flag stop at a feed mill near the Muffly’s.

Two Bachelor Uncles

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

Thursday, August 24, 1911: Although the weather looked exceedingly threatening this morning and continued to drizzle now and then all day, Ruth and I went over to Ottawa on the train in spite of the silvery rain drops. I have two bachelor uncles living there and wanted to go over so bad after an absence of seven year anyway, if not more. Our visit was but of short duration, but we intend however to visit them again this coming fall. Making a longer visit than this one and to visit a certain park not far away.

Recent photo of the railroad track by the Muffly farm. It's hard to picture, but there once was a feed mill by the tracks--and it was a flag stop for a passenger train.

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

Grandma and her sister Ruth probably flagged down the Susquehanna, Bloomsburg, and Berwick train at the feed mill near their farm. The train stopped at every hamlet between Watsontown and Berwick—and Ottawa was a stop on the line.

Ottawa is a tiny village in Limestone Township, Montour County—and is located about 12 miles east of the Muffly farm.

Transportation was more difficult a hundred years ago than it is today, but it seems somewhat surprising that Grandma hadn’t seen two uncles who lived only a few miles away for at least seven years.

I think that the bachelor uncles were Samuel and George Muffly.  They were brothers of Grandma’s father. According to the 1910 census Samuel Muffly was a 43-year-old single male. He lived with his 34-year-old brother George and his 59-year-old widowed sister Mary Feinour and her two children, 19-year-old S. Kathryn and 14-year-old John.

It seems odd that Grandma only mentioned her uncles and did not mention her aunt and cousins—but maybe they had moved out of the household by 1911.

(In case you care—The Church of Latter Day Saints Family Search tool makes it really easy to search old census records.  I also found Samuel in the 1920 census. He was still single and was still living in Limestone Township, Montour County—but he was living alone.)

Susquehanna, Bloomsburg, and Berwick Railroad

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

Monday, February 27, 1911: The roads were so muddy that I went up the railroad to school and came home that way. Besse was out this afternoon. Wish I had all of my lessons out for tomorrow especially my latin.

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

It’s hard to picture how bad the mud must have been in the era before paved roads. Railroad tracks for the Susquehanna, Bloomsburg, and Berwick Railroad (S.B. & B. R.R.) crossed the Muffly farm.The route went from Watsontown to McEwensville and Turbotville and then continued east to Washingtonville, Bloomsburg, and Berwick.

My father says that Grandma always called the railroad the Sweet Bye and Bye.

According to an essay by the Columbia County Historical and Genealogical Society the Susquehanna, Bloomsburg and Berwick Railroad (S.B. & B.R.R.) was often called the ‘Sweet Bye and Bye’ because traffic was intermittent, and trains traveled at a slow speed and stopped at every hamlet and feed mill along the route. Sweet Bye and Bye is also the name of an old-time hymn.

There were flag stops at two feed mills between Watsontown and McEwensville (a distance of only 4 or 5 miles). One was at a hamlet called Pioneer–it’s just a group of 4 or 5 houses today–and the other was at Truckenmiller’s Mill which was located next to the Muffly farm.

The railroad was also sometimes called the Weak and Weary railroad. It was a financial failure because there were no major industries along the route.

The S.B. & B.R.R. no longer exists, but the track is still used by trains transporting coal to the Pennsylvania Power and Light (PP & L) power plant at Strawberry Ridge near Washingtonville.