Old Pioneer Days – Part II
Author: Grace Petterson
I “Grace McClain Petterson” will try and write a few things as I remember my mother telling them to us.
The family continued to live on the old homestead although things were hard for them and the family was growing. When mother was sixteen she was going steady with a young man six years older then herself named Andrew J. McClain. He was a cousin of R. S. McClain, who married Alma Lawton a sister of Grandpa Lymon Lawton. Andrew did not drink, smoke or swear and was considered a steady nice young man although he did not have any start for the future.
When mother was 17 years old, Maud Lawton Thompson was born in July 25th 1883 to her stepmother. On Sept. 12th 1885 Addie and Andrew were married at Meauwataka, Wexford Co. and went to live on a farm a short distance from Grandma and Grandpa Lawton.
Eva was born to them the following June 30, 1886 and I “Grace” on Feb 17, 1889. Grandpa and Grandma Lawton had Lula Lawton McGhan just a year after Eva was born to mother and 2 ½ years before I was born.
Then Hazel was born in Jan 20, 1892 to Addie and Andrew and Winnie Lawton Standish was born to Grandma and Grandpa Lawton. Violet Margaret was born Mar 25, 1895 thus Maud was just one year older than Eva and 4 yrs. older than I and Lula 2 ½ yrs. older than I. Hazel and Winnie were nearly the same age. Living close to each other we were more like sisters then nieces and Aunts so we never called Maud, Lula or Winnie aunt, only to tease them.
After Violet was born my folks decided to come to Mason Co. to live. We came by team and wagon. I being just six years old can not remember too much about the trip; but do remember that Eva and I walked a great deal driving the cow which was tied behind the wagon. We saw a porcupine and my father told us that it could throw its pines but I now know that they can’t do that but only if they are touched the pines stick in and the longer they are left in the farther they will go. We also saw a skunk which Eva and I thought was a very pretty kitty and wanted to pick up.
We finally reached Mason Co. and went to Aunt Charity and Uncle Wesley Slagle my father’s half sister, husband and children. We stayed with them until we found a house to live in. Must have crowded them as there was then four children in their family besides the grandpa and grandma Slagle living there.
Of that family there is still living William of Hart, Mich., Emma Bacon, Custer and Elmer Slagle of Scottville R #1. Violet Margaret McClain our baby sister that we had when we reached Mason Co, just lived 6 months and died in the fall of 1895. We were still living at the Slagle home when she died.
Then on Nov. 19, 1896 Floyd Vernon was born and Mother was very sick and had to be in the Hospital for several months. My father had to take baby Floyd back to Wexford Co. to Grandma Lawton so she could take care of him. Grandma Lawton had just had a baby boy “Lloyd Lawton” so it was just as if she had twins to take care of.
The rest of we children were taken care of by our friends and neighbors and was so happy when our mother was well enough to come home again so we could all be together. On Feb. 8, 1898 Ford Pearly McClain was born. Now we had our family, three girls and two little boys. It was about this time that Grandpa and Grandma Lawton moved to Mason Co. with their family so we were all together again and many good times we had. I had not spoken of it before but our sister Hazel was very short. When she was three years old she could walk under our fathers knee when he was sitting down. I can remember seeing her do that even after she must have been older. She had very long hair way down below her hips. Her hair was very dark brown and her eyes were as near black as they could be. I have never seen anybody else that was as short as Hazel was even when she was fully-grown.
We went to Resigue School till we moved to Ludington when I was 12 years old and then I went to Longfellow School. We lived on what was at that time “Charles St” now Rath Ave till my father got a job in a lumber camp at Diaton Mich. near Cadillac. Eva was married to Lewis Hayden just before the folks moved to the lumber camp and she lived in the house on Charles St. that my folks had bought.
I stayed with Sopha Durphy a great friend of my mother and went to County Normal. At that time, 1906 and 1907, you could go to County Normal if you had completed the 10th in High School and as I had to go to work I wanted to teach. In 1907 I graduated from County Normal and my first School was in Freesoil where I taught in a three-room school for two years. The last year I was teaching in Freesoil my mother, bringing Hazel and the two boys, came back to Ludington. She and my father having parted. She sold the Charles St. house and had a small cottage built on Robert Street that she owned till she died. Things were very hard for my mother now having a daughter Hazel and two small sons to bring up and provide for. I was the oldest one at home and Eva was married so I helped buy clothes, groceries and helped pay for the home as my mother had monthly payments to make on it.
After teaching in Freesoil I taught one year in North Amber School and it was there that I met Elliott Petterson whom I later married.
The strain of teaching in North Amber School was too great for me. It was a one-room school with all the grades through the eighth and sixty pupils enrolled. When it stormed very hard about thirty-five to forty were there. I took sick in March and couldn’t finish out the term.
After that I took a book keeping course and got a job at the Watchcase where I stayed till 1913.
Franz and I went together till Jan 1, 1912 when we were married. At that time my sister lived in Allegan Co. near Saugatuck and she had invited us to spend Christmas and New Years with her. Franz and I went and decided to get married while there.
Her husband took us by team and sleigh to Saugatuck where we were married on New Years Day in 1912. I kept on working for a year at before we announced our wedding and started house keeping in a small new cottage on William Street just a block from where mother lived. Franz was working at the Wagon factory for several months before being laid off. His father wanted him to come home to help him with the farm work so we packed our furniture and stored it in my bedroom at mothers and it was a sorrowful day to bid our first home goodbye and go to live with mother and dad Petterson. She did not speak hardly any English.
It sure would have been very lonesome for me if it hadn’t of been for my young husband whom I love dearly and his two younger sisters, Selma and Clara. We lived right in the Petterson home till we could get two rooms cleaned and papered in the house of Nelse Johnson a cousin of Franz. Happy was the day when I could get our furniture and had a home of our own again.
Mother Petterson was always nice to me but she cooked and did everything so much different that it had been hard for me to work with her. However while there I did do a lot of sewing for her and the girls. I was quite expert at sewing and she had been used to hiring all of her sewing done.
We had a small bedroom a pantry which I used for a kitchen and a large living room so we were very cozy in our new home and a lot of the young people used to gather at our home which we enjoyed very much. But Dad Petterson was drinking very hard and did not want to pay Franz any thing for his work.
We hired out to Mr. Cowell in Summit Township Mason Co. and on Feb. 17, 1914 we packed our furniture and moved to Summit. At that time the farm now owned by Mrs. Vorac, where their son in law Bob Doughtry and wife Janet with their two children are now living, was the farm home that the hired help lived at.
We had lived there only a month, had only finished cleaning the house and getting settled when Mr. C. A. Cowell died. In April that farm was sold to Mr. Frank Beebe, wife and children so we had to move again, this time just across the road that has later been our home.
Howard Cowell and family lived in this house and as he was going to have his father’s home farm at the corner so we all moved the same day. I cleaned the pantry shelves and carried six pans of milk across the road, the dishes and chairs in fact all the light things and got them in place while Franz was helping Howard to move the heavy pieces of their furniture down to his fathers farm. It sure was funny as fast as Howard got their things out we would replace them with ours and as soon as we got our things out of the other house Beebe’s would move their things in. You could hardly tell when you got all of your things all out as everything was moved in and out so fast. But late that night we finely got things sorted out and I guess every one was happy. One other thing I will say is that Mrs. Beebe had a clean house to go into and that was more then I could say about this house.
This house was a new unfinished house and as Howard and wife had three children and had lived here all winter, she had not started spring cleaning yet so I sure had a lot of cleaning to do. But we were happy to be settled again and as we had no children and I had lots of time and although there was no water on the place. We had to carry water from Beebe’s and I finally got everything cleaned.
There had been in the early times a well and buildings way back in the field near the stone fence between the Ray Jenson farm and ours, so that summer, Franz cleaned the pipes out and put a pump on. For years or until Jacqueline was three years old we carried water from there in the winter time and even to stock. In 1915 on April 3, Glenn was born and now we ceased to be “Grace and Franz” but were “Mother and Dad” as that was what we wished our little son to call us. He was a pretty baby so the proud mother and dad thought him anyway. When he was eight months old we decided to try renting a farm instead of being just hired help. So we rented for one year the Geo Haskell farm where Mrs. Appleclone now lives and moved over there just before Thanksgiving. We did not like it there and did not make anything and as Howard Cowell had been after us to come back and work for him again, we decided to do so if he would sell us his place on a contract. Well after thinking it over the deal was made and papers were made out. One of the first things we did after we bought the place was to grade, level, and seed the lawn. All the neighbors thought that was time wasted but as Dad and I both wanted to have a beautiful yard and we knew we could not do anything till the yard was level.
Then as time went on every chance we got we would get some shrub or evergreen and plant it and of course seed is cheap so we always had annual flowers.
In 1918 the Great Flu epidemic hit the United States. Two of our near neighbors got it and died in just a few days. Most of the people that died had a private funeral of if otherwise the casket was sealed; as the germs were everywhere and folks were getting it every time they came in contact with the germs.
Eva Holmes a young girl, Ed Holmes daughter, came here on Sat. about 5:00 p. m. to give me the Sect’s book for the Grange. She told me that her folks could not go as she and her father had just brought Mamie her sister, home sick and they thought it was the Flu. That was the last time I saw Eva as the next day Sunday morning she took sick and lots worse than Mamie was and died Monday night.
It was a terrible shock to Holmes. Mamie got well. Of course everyone talked about the Flu and how first one and then another had it and child like Glenn started teasing for it. One time I was in the store and he started teasing me to buy it for him. Aunt Charity Slagle and her daughter Mary both died with in a week of each other. Mary left a tiny baby boy. Of course the First World War was in action and every able-bodied man had a number. Every day the papers were full of the numbers who had to report the next day. Farm men were left as long as possible as food was so badly needed but dad and I never knew when his number would be called. But they had not quite got to his number when War ended Nov. 11, 1918. That was sure a happy day all over the U. S. and I guess all over the world.
In the year 1921 on June 3, Ivan was born. He was a pretty, plump baby boy with gray eyes and long black hair. The first time I washed and dressed him I cut his hair at the neckline, as I could not tie his nightie without getting in the way. He was a very good baby except for about a week each month when he would get a high fever, not eat and I would have to hold him most of the time. Dr. Grey said it was gland trouble after he had the mumps. When he was 2 ½ years old he did not have any more of those fever spells. Dr Grey said that then he was sure it was gland trouble and mumps being a disease of the glands had stopped it.
In 1922 we bought our first car, “The Overland.” It was a very nice new little car with curtains to put up when it was cold or stormed. We enjoyed having it very much and it made it much easier to go with Ivan and with the boy’s baby sister Jacqueline who came to live with us on May 14, 1924. She had real golden red hair and it curled as soon as it was long enough and until she was about 3 ½ years old. When it was hard to keep curled nice I cut it. Now we had our family 2 nice boys and a little baby girl.
When Jacqueline was about 8 months old Grandpa Lawton took sick and as he was staying with mother, I took Ivan and Jacqueline and went to help mother take care of him. Mother also had blood poisoning in her hand so could not do very much. I did not say that Grandma Lawton had died May 11, 1924 and her funeral was May 14, 1924 or the same day Jacqueline was born and that was why Grandpa Lawton came to stay with mother.
After several weeks of illness Grandpa Lawton died. We had all loved both he and Grandma very much and sure missed them.