Watsontown Brick Company

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

Friday, March 10, 1911:  Pulled a girl’s ears at school. It was her birthday. Will be glad when mine comes along. Hope tomorrow will prove more stirring than what today had been.

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

Grandma’s sixteenth birthday will be on the first day of spring—March 21. It sounds like she’s already looking forward to it. This is the second time that pulling ears on someone’s birthday has been mentioned in the diary.


On days when Grandma writes little of interest, I always wish that she’d described her daily routines more. For example, what time did school start each morning? And when Grandma walked to school each morning were there men going in the opposite direction towards jobs in Watsontown?

The road Grandma walked to school each morning. It would have been dirt (or mud) in 1911.

Raymond Swartz, Grandma’s classmate at McEwensville High School and future husband, wrote a short family history many years later. He mentioned working in the Watsontown Brick Plant a few years after he graduated from McEwensville High School.

The next five years I spent working for father on the farm with the exception of three months in the winter of 1918 when I worked at the Watsontown Brick Plant. To do that, it was necessary to get up at four o’clock in the morning in order to get some of the morning chores done on the farm and then leave home to drive a horse and buggy to work about six-fifteen. Work at the plant started at seven o’clock and lasted until five o’clock. Then I drove home and helped with some of the chores in the evening. We worked five hours on Saturdays. For the three months work I received $228.00 which was good wages in those days.

Raymond Swartz

Watsontown Brick Company was founded in 1908, and a hundred years ago other strong young men were probably making the daily trip on the road from McEwensville to Watsontown to earn a good wage for a hard day’s work.

Bricks are still produced in Watsontown and sold nationally. The town is famous for its clay soils that make excellent bricks.

The cows need milking

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

Saturday, February 4, 1911. Got up late this morning. The time we usually get up on Saturday mornings. Went to Watsontown this afternoon. Bought some valentines. I was rather fortunate. I got a ride both ways from and to home which I was glad of because the roads were so slushy. Ruth did my milking tonight. Twas a wonder.

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

Did Grandma have to milk the cows every evening?  . . . what about in the morning? Did she milk them before walking to school each morning? It seems like needing to milk cows daily was a major commitment, yet she never mentioned it during the entire first month of the diary. Apparently from Grandma’s perspective it was  only worth mentioning on the day when she went to town and her sister Ruth had to do her milking for her.

Watsontown is about 2 miles west of the Muffly farm, and is somewhat larger than McEwensville. The MyWatsontown web site has some wonderful old photos—and lots of other history resources—that provide a sense of what Watsontown was like in 1911.