(This is another special posting by Suzy. I hope you enjoy it.)
I walked into the house and looked around at the place I had made my home since the day I married six years ago. Fred was a good and loving husband, who cared for me and our three little girls. We had been a bit of a scandal when we married. I was 18, plenty old enough, but Fred had been my teacher in school. He always said that I was his prettiest and brightest student, though the order of pretty and bright sometimes changed. Now we were leaving the place we had made our home. The wagon was packed and he was hitching up the mules so we could go north. I just wanted one last look at our home before beginning the trek. It looked so different now that all our things were in the wagon. The furniture we couldn’t take with us Mother was storing to give to my sisters, as they might need it. There wasn’t much. The table and chairs Fred had made, the kitchen cabinet and our two clothes cabinets, some chairs and a settee. The cradle he had made and our bedposts were in the wagon. I was keeping my rocking chair and spinning wheel, too. Aside from that it was tools, cooking utensils and clothes that filled the wagon. Fred’s brothers Abe who is 24, same as me, and Jo who is 17, are coming to help us.
Fred’s calling me. He wants us to get to the Cumberland River outside of Nashville today and it looks like we’ll have thunderstorms before dinner. Time to say good-bye to family and this town that has been home since I was ten years. Dickson had changed since we came. Just after the War between the States Mr. Berringer had gathered up a number of families in our part of Pennsylvania to come to Tennessee to farm and help repair the iron works.
Fred had come to Dickson with his older brother, Rev. Dan, with the first group from Pennsylvania. Dan couldn’t be a farmer after the War because he had shot off his own arm while cleaning his gun. Fred had helped him get started in the Methodist Church here and still did many of the chores for him. As Dickson grew it became less and less God-fearing. There were now three saloons in town, which is more than the churches. Children and ladies didn’t want to be in town from Saturday afternoon till Church on Sunday because of all the men who come in and get drunk after they are done working on the farms or at the iron works.
In a way we were going home. Fred’s parents were getting older and we were to join them in Hells Hollow outside of Slippery Rock on the old Copper place that had belonged to his grandparents. With a growing family we needed a more secure living than his teaching school and being a handyman.
As I came back into the sunshine I saw Mother and Daddy were hugging my girls while my sisters stood around looking glum. My brother, Jimmy, was helping Fred and the boys with the last minute check of the animals. I had thought we should take two hens for eggs and a goat for milk during the trip. It was going to be a very hot so they had put roofs on the hen cages. The girls could ride in the wagon. Fred and the boys would take turns driving. When not driving, we will walk along side. After many promises to write often we start out.
It’s July. We want to be North in time to help with the fall harvest and butchering. The boys had helped get the crops in the fields here. This was the quiet time of summer so our taking the extra hands with us wouldn’t be missed. The air was very still and as the sun rose higher in the sky the mules kept slowing down. We stopped for lunch near a copse of trees that allowed room for the girls to play. Jo spends much of his time chasing Nannie, who at 2, just loves to squeal when Uncle Jo catches and tickles her. My little Maude, a good and responsible girl at five, helps me open the packages for lunch. Abe has gone down to the river with the bucket to get us some water and Fred has unhitched the mules so they can eat some of this nice grass. After we have packed up from lunch I put Nannie and baby Lillie to nap in the wagon, and secure Maud’s sunbonnet so she can walk a bit with me. By dinnertime we have reached the Cumberland River just west of Nashville. We find a protected area to camp. The thunderstorms seem to have passed by so the boys will sleep under the stars tonight. Fred and I will be under the wagon so we can hear the girls. First day and we have made good distance. As my thoughts begin to drift I wonder what my sisters are doing back home. Jo begins some silly song and soon we all join with him.
We reach a small town in Kentucky on the fifth evening and stop near a little country store. Maude and I do some washing. Of all the boys in existence Jo and Abe beat them all. They keep us laughing all of the time. They are so goodhearted that even strangers take a liking to them, which makes everything easier. Our washing isn’t dry when it is time to leave in the morning so I have hung it on the pegs Fred has put on the inside walls of the wagon. The hats, jackets, and some of the tools will have to roll around the wagon bed till lunch so the clothes can dry.
Our last night out we are camped just west of New Castle, Pennsylvania. Fred tells us that we will be at the old Copper place tomorrow for supper. It’s pretty here. Ohio had been so flat. At least we have a few hills here. All day we have smelled the crops ripening in the fields. After almost two months I am tired of cooking over an open fire. It will be nice to use a real oven again. Then I really don’t know what I will be doing. The letters from Fred’s mother have always been very pleasant, but we’ve never met. And Fred has a big family. We stayed with one of his sisters and her family in Ohio for a week. They all seemed to like working hard and having a good laugh, just like my Fred. Four more brothers and three more sisters plus husbands, wives and children I have yet to meet will be waiting for us tomorrow. I am excited and a bit fearful.
Thanksgiving is next week. The weather is cold now. There are three or four inches of snow on the ground. Nannie and I were doing the washing today and it froze before we could get it on the line. The harvest was good. All the family went around to each other’s farms and helped to bring it in when it was time. Fred and his brothers butchered enough animals that we have meat in the smoke house or canned that will take us through the winter. It will be enough even with our large and growing family. I am pregnant and hoping to have a boy next summer. Fred’s parents are very loving, but before our new baby is born we will move to the Quigley place so as to have a home of our own. Fred is making a new table and chairs for us this winter. It will have to be a big table as we hope to have a large family just as his parents did. Oh yes, Fred is now called A.F. so as not to be confused with others, but he will always be my loving and joyful Fred.
The last word:
This is my Great Grandmother’s story. It comes from family oral history plus a letter she wrote back to her family in Dickson, TN, at the end of the trip in 1880. It is about 650 miles from Dickson, TN, to Slippery Rock, PA – a ten-hour drive today; a two-month plus trip then. While a single person might make 20 miles a day, a family with a wagon and animals was doing well to make ten miles a day. The Copper place was Fred’s grandparent’s home.
In this 1898 picture, Fred and my Great Grandmother are in the middle of the back row. My Grandmother, the fifth of their eleven children, is the tall girl sitting in the center front.
Keep your sense of humor.