A family with 9 children survives life on the Kansas prairie in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The experiences they have illustrate the joys, sorrows, hardships and everyday life of the Midwest pioneers. This faith filled series of stories is true. The eldest child was my great grandmother Alzina Pomeroy Boone.
The title “Over the Edge” refers to the event at the end of this post. Had the story turned out differently, I would not be here to retell it.
“Our second boy was born on May 4, 1893 at the Holland farm. We named him John, with the middle name of Milford. He had a sense of humor, the youngest I ever heard of. When only two weeks old, he smiled broadly at Sadie as she patted his cheeks. We could not decide on a name for him for nearly two weeks. Sadie declared she would call him “Jack” if we didn’t name him soon. As we began to urge Milford to suggest a name, he said casually, “Call him John”. I thought he was just joking, but when he showed real earnestness, I didn’t wait long to ask that his middle name be Milford.
All four of my children were well behaved in company because of the reticence they inherited from their father. They had very little sickness, except occasional colds, and the usual complaint when teething and in their second summer. I seldom used any drugs for medicines for any of them. Foods such as oatmeal, tomatoes, fruit and vegetables could be used, I found, to cure about all their maladies. The most serious illness was when Esther had pneumonia every winter her first three years. Onion poultices on her chest cured her within a week. The first two winters, Ethel and John often had croup, which was soon relieved by packing ears of corn around them which had been taken out of hot water. Usually, if I began in time, I could stop the croup by hugging them close and wrapping them warmly. I awoke easily when an ailment disturbed some one of the children, and our God was always quick to answer our cry for deliverance.
North of the path leading from barn to pond and east of the house was the vegetable garden. Here, of evenings, all through the summer, one could see Milford working with the three older children close at his side. They loved to drop the seeds for him, or pluck up weeds, or anything to be near him. And, he was fond of them and proud when they preferred him to “mamma”. But, the new little girl (Esther) was somewhat coquettish in her manner. She was eight months old before she would go from “Mamma” to “Papa”. How proud he was though when the day came that she cried to go to him while her Mamma was holding her. I was pleased, too, for I loved my husband and wanted our children to love him most, and was happy to see them all so happy.”
In 1895 Milford bought a 40 acre farm across the road north west of my parent’s farm. Here he built us neat one and a half story cottage, 12 x16 with an attic. At my parent’s home, there was an old well or cistern. It was old, but oh what refreshing water the buckets brought up from the depths of the earth. A feed mill was near the well, where grain was a ground, enough for a half day at a time.
“In the winter of 1896 a near tragedy occurred. Wilbur Pomeroy, one of my younger brothers, aged about 11, was drawing water with a pail and rope to fill a tub for watering the horses. Another of my brothers, Charlie, who was about 6, and my little John were near by playing. John, who was only about 3 and a half, came over to the well and wanted to see how full the pail was. He slipped and fell into the cistern head first!
There was no curb, the rocks around the edge of the cistern were level with the ground and covered with a coating of ice. Water spilt on them made them very slick. The wall of the cistern was of shell rock about the size of a dinner plate and one or two inches thick, and was six feet down.
Wilbur jumped into the cistern after Johnny, and by straddling across, found footholds at the waters edge. He grabbed Johnny when he came to the top of the water. Charlie, anxious to help, slipped in and fell on top of Wilbur and Johnny. It looked hopeless and that all would perish, but Wilbur somehow held Johnny with his right hand against the side of the cistern and pushed him to safety, with Charlie’s help. Only God could help Wilbur climb those ice covered slick walls of the cistern and get all of them out safely. Although water soaked, the wind coming strong from the north, and freezing temperatures, they made it into the house.”
These stories were put together from “Me and Mine” by Alzina Pomeroy Boone and Pomeroy family letters.