My love of old things rivals my love of handmade things. My house is full of tiny antiques (tiny meaning affordable) and vintage goodies. An item with history has so much more character than something new. I can sit down for tea with a vintage cup and saucer, and wonder about who used them before, where they lived, and what kind of person they might have been. I’m fascinated by my family history and by elders. Old things have so much spirit
While I was home over Christmas, I got a delicious look at my family’s past. For the past several years I’ve been helping my grandma label all of her old photos and arrange them in albums. I snapped a few pictures of my favorites. Here’s my grandpa looking very handsome..
And my grandma modeling a dress…
And my mom and her sisters as children. The one in the center with the stylin’ glasses is my momma…
The real surprise came when my mom showed me a collection of journals that were written over 100 years ago on the family farm. The farm is located just up the road from my house in Nauvoo, PA and is still owned and operated by members of my family. My grandpa grew up there. Someone went through the attic recently and found some old linen cloths, some dresses that my grandpa and his siblings would have worn when they were babies, and the journals.
It’s really hard to tell who authored the journals, because they’re written almost entirely in the third person. My theory is that there was not just one writer, but that a few family members of the household contributed, probably whoever was able to find the time. The entries are all short and each one just lists what every one did that day, who came to visit, and what was happening on the farm. I spent a number of hours reading through the journals and typing them up so that there would be a preserved copy to share via e-mail with family members who might not get a chance to see the originals. In the time I was home, I only got through one journal! The pages are very brittle, and the penciled cursive is light and very hard to read in places.
While reading the journals I was shocked at how neighborly people used to be. There were visitors to the farm almost every day, and many of them stayed for supper or even spent the night. The children of the family were constantly going home with friends after school and sometimes stayed with them for a few days. Trips to visit friends in neighboring towns were not uncommon, and often turned into a 2 or 3 night stay.
Here’s an excerpt from one of the journals:
Jan 12 Tuesday, 1904
Pa Ma and Elmer went out to the Farmers Institute Ma staid out for a couple of days Pa and Elmer staid for evening Mr Moyer shaved shingles Dora and Anna baked cookies and chored around In the afternoon Dora went to Nauvoo The weather was nice nearly all day awful frosty in the morning
As you can see, I’ve left the spelling, grammar, and punctuation as it was originally written. The writer rarely used periods, especially early on in the journal. The Elmer that is mentioned would be my great grandfather, father of my grandpa shown above. Elmer was a boy at the time this was written. I love the use of the words “chored around”. I guess this meant that they just did whatever chores needed done around the barn and house. It’s used very frequently in the journals, almost every day.
I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to look back and get a glimpse of my family’s past. It’s a chance that most people don’t have and I absolutely cherish it. This is where I came from. This is a giant part of who I am. I’ve been so inspired by the experience that I’m now keeping a journal of my own. The style will be similar, just a few lines about the weather and the happenings. Hopefully I’ll have ancestors who will care enough to read it.
And the next time someone makes fun of me for saying supper instead of dinner, I’ll inform them that it comes naturally to me because my family has been saying it for over 100 years!