A to Z Challenge: Suprise of a Snaky Nature

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.

And so Alzina Boone, widow, stepped back into teaching to support her young family. She was able to keep her children with her, thanks to her sister Sadie who stayed with them the first spring. The next year she persuaded Sadie’s beau, Park, to marry Sadie and move in with them and help with the farm as well. Most of the time she took Stanley, her oldest boy age 5, and John, age 4 with her to school while the girls stayed home with Sadie, or occasionally with her mother. She had all the worries of a mother, and a breadwinner, and a teacher. Children got sick, food got scarce, bills couldn’t be paid, but through it all, they stayed together and were glad for that.

The school teacher, Alzina Boone

Alzie’s story continues:

“Sadie and Park moved to his father’s farm the following autumn, 1898. I hired a girl, Mamie, to stay with me and my four children at Elizabeth Town, where I was paid $33 per month. I rented a two story house about a half mile from the school house, and close to neighbors, and my father and brothers hauled my household goods over to the new place. With my buggy and good driving pony, Kate, we thought we were well equipped for a prosperous year. But we had some exciting events, which spoiled our joy of living there, and tested our faith and courage.

I ordered some fresh hay delivered inside the barn door about the first of the first week we were there. I asked Mamie to fill the three ticks with fresh hay to be used as mattresses on the three beds. She filled the ticks during the day and let them lie on the hay pile till I came home to help carry them in. It was almost dark when we got the beds made. Our rooms were lighted with kerosene lamps.

I had put the children to bed, and they were soon asleep. Mamie and I sat on the top step of the stairway, talking over tomorrow’s plan when suddenly Ethel, the oldest girl, screamed in fright, as in a bad dream. I sprang to my feet holding the lamp in my hand and saw a dark snake about a foot long wriggling up and down her right arm, and off onto the floor. I exclaimed, “Oh Mamie, it’s a snake!”

Then she sprang to her feet with a scream and whirled me around, which motion put out the light, and without a match where we could find it . I started down the stairs for a match, but she wailed, “Don’t leave me up here!” So I commanded her to get a match. When we got the lamp lit, there was the snake darting up and down the wall from the floor. I seized a mop and stepped on one side of the bed and struck at the snake, but it vanished.

We hunted for an hour or so, but never found it. We decided it must have jumped out of a low open window beyond the foot of the bed. But it was very hard to give up looking for the snake and go to bed. A neighbor woman jokingly said next day, “I’ve heard of men having snakes in their boots, but never of women having snakes in the beds.”

A to Z Challenge: Resolutions

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.

Alzina was left a widow with four little children, a big blow for a pioneer woman. But as many brave people do at the start of a new period of her life, she made some resolutions and set about keeping them.

A long, but revealing, letter from Alzina Pomeroy Boone to her Uncle Wilbur Fisk, dated July 8th, 1897. The pouring out of a grieving heart…

Dear Uncle Wilbur,

It really is too bad that I have waited so long to answer your good letter with the generous gift enclosed and I am almost ashamed to write now. Two weeks after Milford’s death, the members of the school board of Lyon County District came to me, and offered me a chance to teach two months of school at $30.00 a month. At first I thought I could not possibly take up teaching so soon. I had little heart to do any kind of work, and teaching calls for so much energy and spirit. I had not taken an examination for a certificate for seven years and had not studied much either. And my children seemed so small. Their father always spent most of his time when was in the house, petting and playing with them and always made so much over them. And it seems hard that they should have to do without both father’s and mother’s care, while I am gone all day.

But after careful and prayerful thought I decided to take courage and do the best I could for the children’s sake. I want to keep them together, and I want to keep them out of town while they are so young and I very much desire to pay for this farm that Milford had partly paid for and improved. So I commenced the school April 18th. I hired Sadie to take my place at home and I drove from home to school all the time – five miles. I took my two boys with me. There was considerable business to be seen to on Saturdays and as we raised chickens and garden stuff as usual, you can see that I had no time to spare.

I had to go to considerable expense at the beginning in the way of clothes, taking examinations, mending harness, etc… before I had received any wages, so your gift was a timely help to me and I felt very grateful for it. You said it was for the children, and so when I got my first month’s wages, I got them all a pretty waist or dress for Sunday wear and some other clothes they were needing. I got a half dozen photographs of them taken and I send you one. I felt I must have a picture of them as they were when left fatherless. I look forward to having a stone for his grave, and choice plants upon the grave and his picture enlarged, but these I can get as well ten years hence as now. But to have the children’s picture as when he left them, I must have them now. I hope it was not an extravagance.

This, most likely, was that picture. Stanley was 6, John was 4, Ethel was 3 and Esther was 6 months old.

The question of supporting my family does not look so hopeless to me, as some of my friends feel it is. I have a good garden, a good start in chickens (for I had only five hens last year) and ducks, and a fine prospect of corn. The haying business is beginning to look up and if I can sell my hay press at $65 (Milford gave $100 for it two years ago) that will clear the chattel mortgage, and I will have my two horses clear. I would rather sell one of them before winter, if I can’t get more than $10 for him – he has several slight blemishes. But perhaps I can hire them out this fall, and thus earn something. I have a plow, cultivator and mowing machine to sell, but of course, such takings do not sell easily. I have $7 left from my school money, and have paid $15 on the principal of the first mortgage on the place and got that renewed for another year. The principal was $150. Fifty dollars being due last December, fifty next December and Fifty in another year. The second mortgage amounts to $150 also. The mechanics lien on the house is for $90, and they promised to extend it two years.

I sold my hay sheets for $15 and paid $7.50 of it to the doctor who attended Milford. There are two accounts in Milford’s favor which will amount to $12, and I think they will pay them before long. Mr. Hilton has Milford’s thoroughbred bird dog and her pups and Milford expected them to be worth $20 before winter. Milford’s gun and gun implements are at a store in Colony for sale. I felt that I never wanted to see them again, though all other personal belongings of Milford’s are very precious to me. I want to pay $23 for the coffin, and then whatever else all these things amount to will be mine to use for our support this winter.

I think I will get 7 months of teaching at $35 this winter. They will not be able to pay me until January. I can’t tell how much of the school money I will save. I will have to hire a girl to take my place at home, and it is no small matter to provide for six, and I will have to hire some work done on the house, and building a stable and hen house. But the way seems quite open to me, and back of it all, I know that God is ruling all things, and with better judgement, by far, than I could ever have.

The hardest part of life for me is the awful loneliness and the dread of the long years before me. But I compare this separation to that of seven years ago, after we were engaged and before we were marred, when he was in Missouri. Of course, I heard from him often the, but I remember it seemed to me the months would never pass. I looked forward to our wedding day with such joyful anticipation, although I knew there were severe trails in married life.

Now it seems to me the years are so long, but I look forward to joining him in heaven some day, with a far holier joy, and there will be no sorrow or disappointments over there and we will understand each other fully. I believe he knows more now of how much I loved him, than he ever knew while living here, and yet I did all that human weakness can do to prove my love to him.

My only unhappiness the past seven years has been my anxiety for his soul’s welfare. Perhaps my anxiety was a hindrance to him, but I exercised all the wisdom God gave me, in regard to this and I couldn’t help caring, you know. And if I had had my mind and heart engrossed in the petty things of life, the house work, the question of what to eat and wear, I know I would have given up to grumbling at our circumstances, and thus made his life unhappy.

What comfort or assurance could be mine since his death, if I had never prayed for him? But my only desire, my daily prayer or vow to God was that I would take uncomplainingly any lot on earth if he would hold me up and save me and my loved ones in eternity. And so, with the faith I have in God’s promises, and the few words Milford spoke, I know he is among the redeemed ones.

Just one question I sometimes might ask, that is, is he enjoying now more than the joy and comfort he enjoyed with his children? Or, do the spirits of our departed ones linger until the resurrection morn? You know, so many in speaking of one who is gone say “poor boy” and “he wanted to have this or that pleasure, but now it is too late”. Such expression started the question in my mind. Searching the Bible, I find nothing yet assuring us that our spirits go to heaven before the resurrection day, except Christ’s assurance to the dying thief, while he was on the cross. But leaving aside these questionings, with the knowledge that my prayers for my darling’s salvation are answered, the glorious hope of a happy meeting someday, and the consciousness that round about me and underneath me are the Everlasting Arms, I can not be sad.

It is only when I look at my own life from a human standpoint, that the burden of sorrow becomes more than I can bear. I have all the petty cares of a mother’s life – wakeful nights, teaching baby to eat, adjusting the difficulties of the older ones, and looking to the ways of the household, and added to these are the vexations of business life, receiving dunning letters, collecting accounts, being “jewed” down on the price of what I have to sell, quibbling about wages, looking after fences, feed, fuel, etc… and sometimes I feel that it is a very heavy burden, and wonder why he was taken when we needed him so much. Ah! If this world was all there is for us, how dark and despairing my heart would be.

I received such a good letter from Uncle Pliny last week and I ask you would send this one to him, as a partial answer, for I don’t know when I will get to write again. And I shall be so glad when either of you find time to write to me. I know I have the Bible, and I believe all the truths of salvation but someway it cheers me up, to have some one I know tell me personally of these truths. And now I must close this long, though tardy letter.

Yours lovingly, Alzie Boone

A to Z Challenge: Qualms and Forebodings

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.

March 1897

“Milford was away from home a great deal that winter, engaged in the business of hunting and shipping game. His crop of corn to which he had planted 30 acres had not yielded well, and he was discouraged with farming as a way to get ahead. That autumn and winter he gave his time and attention to making a living with his gun. In his absence, we saw some hard times when food and fuel were scarce. We bought groceries on credit till the bill became so large the merchant demanded payment. I had to sell our last hog to satisfy the merchant. Occasionally we had only cornbread and water for our meal, but we made merry over it, playing we were birds, taking a bit and a sip, then “flying away” to return for another “bite and sip, etc.” The little house often rang with childish laughter. “Prattle and smile made home a joy and life was a merry chime” for the little ones, though I felt many misgivings and fears for the future, and nervous foreboding. I prayed much and God strengthened my heart, so when the blow came, I was able to bear it bravely. “

“About two weeks later, on a Sunday, Milford asked me if I wanted the driving horses kept in the barn after breakfast so I could take the children up to my folks, as he and a visiting hunter were going to another hunter’s for the day. I had so hoped he and the visitor would attend church at our schoolhouse that day with me. I told him pleadingly that I’d stay home if I could “make it like Sunday” for him. But he patted my cheek and said, “I guess we will go down to Daniel’s”.

“Monday, about ten o’clock, Milford was hunting about four miles from home. His partner’s gun went off accidentally and shot Milford just above his left hip, and he lived only 20 hours. He was conscious most of the time and told the partner and those who came to help him, “I can’t live. Take me to Father Pomeroy’s. I want to see Alzie and the children.”

More details of the sad day are told in Alzie’s sister’s account. Sadie wrote: “My brother-in-law had gone out before daylight the morning before with an 18 year old boy, to slip up to a big pond to shoot ducks. They were 4 or 5 miles from home and in a big pasture. They had shot into the flock and now were still in hiding and loading their guns. The boy’s gun went off accidentally and hit Milford in the back of his hip. The boy ran a mile to the nearest house to get help. The man was away from home, then all tired and scared he ran almost another mile further for help. He couldn’t talk plain and the woman thought he was a crazy bum and shut the door. When he got back to the first house the man was home and they drove into the pasture and brought my brother-in-law as far as my father’s home.”

Alzie finished the story this way: “The helpers got a good surgeon quickly, who dressed the wound carefully and relieved the pain for awhile, but he couldn’t do anything about the shot that reached internally. Milford’s last words were the prayer “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” but among sentences he tried to say before were “can’t you make Sunday?” And “I know Jesus can help me.” It was awful to see him suffer so cruelly, but I was thankful that he had those few hours of consciousness and could give such assurance of trust in Jesus. I’m so glad he wasn’t killed instantly as so many hunters are with no Christian hope.

He was buried in Geneva, Kansas, seven miles from our home. The text of the funeral sermon was John 13:7 “What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.”

I have met Milford in my dreams since, and always he seemed so happy, so serene, so heavenly. These dreams comforted me so much, and I believe God sent them to me.

Father and Mother invited me to stay and live with them, but I felt a longing to live in the house Milford had built for us as soon as we could get adjusted. I thought the children would grieve most to death for him, but being so young, and accustomed to his being away from home often, they didn’t keep him in mind very long. My grief was softened by my responsibility for my children, and by my assurance that I will see him again in heaven.”

A to Z Challenge: A Pistol Shot

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.

A pistol shot at 12 noon on September 16th was the signal to start. The story, as told by Alzina Pomeroy Boone in her memoir “Me and Mine”

“In the autumn of 1893 the government acquired the western part of what had been Cherokee Indian Territory and opened it for settlement. A quarter section of land in rural sections, or a town lot in the cities that had been laid out by government surveyors was offered to the first person to drive a stake as a claim to that piece of land. A signal shot was given for starting.

Milford and a young man who had worked for my father each purposed to secure a quarter section farm in the “Cherokee strip”. Milford had traded a young three year old black horse for a fleet footed sorrel mare, which he drove hitched to a two-wheeled cart or buckboard.

I consented to this trade (the black horse was mine), but I was not very enthusiastic about the venture. We had lost on so many ventures on the farm, and I would have preferred his teaching school. Milford was not successful. He never liked to talk about it.

He and the other man went about September 1, as they wanted to explore the strip beforehand and get some idea of where they wanted to see land. They had to register at one of the booths which were set up along the borderline. Also, they needed to hold that place in line. The strip was 165 miles from east to west, and 58 miles from north to south. One could begin the race anywhere they could get in on one of the four borders. Many spent three days and nights or more holding their places. Some men spent three weeks on the line. Probably they were with covered wagon outfits and close to water. They must have gotten pretty tired of it.

In this race, said to be the “biggest horse race that ever had been”, the purse was the Cherokee Strip, larger than the state of Massachusetts. There were thousands of horses, and thousands of drivers and riders. Most of the horses were under saddle. The others were hitched to every kind of a rig – light buck boards like Milford’s, spring wagons, and sulkies, and covered wagons too. There were one thousand people in the run and they came in from all four directions.

At the pistol shot, Milford started from a point not far from the Sedan on the north border. The horseback riders took the lead, passed Milford and other drivers. When he had gone about 15 miles with the crowd, he turned to the east where he saw the top of a string of trees. That meant a stream, an asset of great value to a claim. After crossing two dry creek beds and mounting the rises, he saw the welcome sight of the trees he had seen when he first turned east.

He rode onto a draw while he followed the creek which was ten or twelve feet across, and was just about to drive his stake when a rider appeared over the bluff. The man was leading his horse from which he had removed his saddle and informed Milford that he had already staked his claim to that land. Milford rode with the man to higher ground and saw the flag and pup tent where the man had driven his stake, so he knew he had been beaten to the claim.

On some quarter sections there were as many as 300 claimants, and contests after contests for those who could afford law suits, and some who had won fair and square never got a thing. Milford had no money for a law suit and was too honest to deny this man’s right to the claim. He spent several hours driving around but did not secure a claim. He had left the farm in care of his brother Samuel before crops were harvested and didn’t return until December.

After a few days at home, he went to his boyhood home in Missouri on a business deal which was also a disappointment. I looked after the harvesting as best I could for Sam didn’t stay long, but had to depend much on my father. The oats got too ripe so that they fell to the ground and we didn’t get enough to pay for threshing. I got so hard up that I had to beg the two cent stamp for writing Milford, urging him to come home. He came on horseback within 24 hours after he got my letter, two days before Christmas. He never again left me in such need and was sensitive about any dependence on my folks.”

Birthday Week 2021

Birthday week has officially been over for several days now, but I have yet to thank my well wishers because I’ve been traveling and struggling to keep up with the A to Z Challenge posts. But I am thankful! You all made me feel loved and celebrated. Here’s a little report (just because it’s Sunday and I don’t have to do a post for the A to Z).

On the 8th I was in Florida visiting with friends and family. The day started with going to the Dune Deck in Lantana for breakfast with an ocean view. I had heard of it often as a place my Florida family liked to do celebrations. Quite a few of our group were able to come and we had a relaxing time and a good breakfast. They had no birthday cake, but they did have key lime pie, with a candle, and they sang the song. It felt birthdayish.

I’ve already forgotten what the rest of the day was like, except I do remember there being a pool and a floaty that was conducive to napping. That also was far from my normal day, and very birthdayish.

Dinner had been claimed by one of my dear friends, who took our whole family out to a Japanese steakhouse, hibachi grill style. Yes, the food was good and the cook did his best to impress us with his knives and his onion volcano, but the real fun was just being together with all the family, young and old. Never mind that one of the kid’s paper cup sprang a leak (accidentally he said as he plugged the hole with his toothpick) and shot soft drink around, and another one sent the bowl of that thick pink sauce shooting off the table and onto the floor. I wasn’t the parent so it was more like an interesting movie, a comedy, to watch it all take place.

This must be the first trick they ALL learn.

The trip down to Florida and back, flying first class, was kind of a birthday present from me, to me as well as to Mom, who was with me on this adventure. On the way down, it was too early to feel like doing anything except closing our eyes and occasionally lifting our masks to eat our snacks. On the way home we were more ready to take advantage of everything first class offered.

I got cards from friends and each one was read and treasured. It is greatly encouraging to be remembered in this way and knowing that, I think I will try to do more card sending this year. A few gifts, and real flowers came my way. Thank you all so much – you know who you are (and I’m planning on sending cards there too.). Last but not least, to all my facebook friends, thank you for being there and responding to the Facebook prompt to send a greeting. You didn’t have to do it, but you did and I saw it.

Birthday week is over, but because of it I will feel more connected to people all year long. That is what I care about. Grateful for you all!

A to Z Challenge : Over the Edge

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.

A to Z Challenge: Now We Are Parents

A family with 9 children survived life on the Kansas prairie in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The experiences they had 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.

1891

From Alzina’s own writing: “On October 15, 1891, a Thursday morning, our first born, a son was born to us. We named him Stanley Emerson. Milford wished to name him Stanley for the first name, and I wanted his middle name to be Emerson, after my father. “

“I had always liked babies that were old enough to play, but felt awkward with tiny babies. But, this one was different, and so were each of my babies, charming from the very first day. After he had been bathed and fed, and admired by all present, he looked up at me with wide-open eyes as we lay in bed, seeming to study my face and read my mind. Mother said, “We’ve been telling what we think of him. Now he is finding out what he thinks of you.” I felt the responsibility of being mother to an intelligent, immortal soul, and prayed as I had prayed for several months that I might train him in the way of eternal life.”

“He was a healthy baby. We were very happy parents. I had only a few of the ailments common to young mothers, though they seemed very serious to me then, as I had never suffered real pain in my twenty years of healthy girlhood. Stanley was usually smiling or crowing when awake and comfortable. When he awoke in the morning, we each raced to be first to take him up. On cold winter days we kept him in the warm kitchen where I cooked and worked. We fixed him a bed with pillows in our large arm chair rocker.

He was usually awake when Milford came home from school and at the sound of his father’s voice, or even his step, the little fellow would twist and turn his head till he caught sight of him, and then how his feet and arms would fly to express his delight. If Milford stepped out of sight, Stanley would again twist and turn and watch till Milford appeared again, and then he would kick and crow in delight.”

“Often I laid him on the table while I washed dishes, or ironed, or I laid him on the bed while I made beds, and he showed the same ecstasy whenever I spread a cloth or sheet over him and then removed it . Our days passed happily and swiftly by.”

“At Christmas time, 1891, we spent a few days at my parent’s home. The first night there, Stanley was very restless and cried quite awhile in the night. I made sure that there was no physical ailment to distress him – just nervousness at being in a strange place. He would not be consoled by his father’s caresses as he usually would.

Finally, Milford turned him over and spanked him. Oh, it seemed to me he spanked so hard! But, I did not interfere. I had determined to never do that, for I had seen so many children spoiled and homes made unhappy by such interference by one or both parents.”

“I knew Milford loved the child, and I could trust him to punish wisely. Of course, he cried more loudly and in a frightened way for a minute or two, but when Milford spoke again, sternly and with a little, but firm, shake, he hushed his cries and nestled in his father’s arms quietly and before long he was asleep. It was the best treatment for the baby, but oh he was such a little fellow and too young to punish, I had felt. It took real self-control and determination for me to refrain from crying out in protest. I am sure this experience made us parents to have more confidence in each other, and the cooperation that makes parenthood happy and successful.”

Stanley grew in stature and in favor with God and man. He learned to creep as fast as I could walk, by the time that the paths out of doors were dry and warm enough to him to creep on. Before long he learned to walk. Every new accomplishment of his was a delight to us.

We both found much pleasure in talking to him and trying to imagine his jabbering was meant to express thought, and was talking. But he began to talk in sentences. I noticed that he made the same series of sound in a pleading, teasing tone as I set the table for the noon meal to be ready for Milford. When he drove home with the team, Stanley began that same cry, “t-i-i-i-e-e-e.” I told Milford, “He has been crying like that for the last half hour or more. What does he mean?” Milford caught him up and placed him in his chair at the table, saying, “It’s time to eat”, Milford’s usual call to him for dinner. Then we began to notice that he spoke whole sentences that way.

The family grew to four. John Milford (my grandfather) was born in May of 1883. Ethel Philena was born in 1894 and Esther came along in 1896.

Stanley and John, standing Ethel and Esther, seated

April A to Z Challenge: Marriage

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.

1889

Marriage had been on her mind a lot since Willard and his proposal. Dating was no longer just a social exercise. It had the possibility of lifelong consequences and Alzie wondered if she would find someone that matched her growing list of husbandly character traits. Teaching school was also quite time consuming, and she was still helping at home whenever she could.

Oh how she missed her brothers and sisters! There were six of them now and Wilbur, the youngest, was only four. So much fun and cute too! Getting to see them every other weekend was just not enough.

Alzie sat in the buggy next to Timmy. He was nearing man size and loved to drive her places now that he was fourteen. They had been up to Garnet where she attended the teacher association meeting. It had given her a lot to think about, and not all of it concerned education.

“Tim, these meetings are very interesting. I met quite a few teachers this time whom I had not met before. Do you know the Prairie Vale school?” Alzie felt like talking. Even though tired from the day long of session, she was still feeling the excitement and mental stimulation of it. All the ideas she had heard and all the conversations she had been part of had her mind in a whirl.

“I’ve heard of it. Somewhere up in Shawnee County, I think.” Tim had not had such an exciting day, but he was also interested in what his sister had to tell.

“The teacher there is a man, a Mr. Boone, and they say he is very effective and successful with his students. I enjoyed talking with him quite a bit.” Was her blush just a bit brighter suddenly? Timmy thought so.

“I hear you sister, and does he have as nice of a buggy as Willard did?” Timmy smiled, looking at Alzie out of the corner of his eye, pretending innocence even as he planned this tease in detail.

Alzie punched him on the arm, and laughed. “I believe he enjoyed talking with me as well, if you must know. He may even visit next week when he is in the area for some business.”

“You might as well tell me more about him then. What does he look like and how does he talk, that you are so impressed?”

Alzie fixed her eyes on the road ahead as she mentally conjured up the picture of the man with whom she had talked most of the afternoon. “He is very tall, which I am sure gives him authority in the classroom. He is… handsome, with black, curly hair. And he loves to be out in the woods whenever he can. Hunting would be his first choice of a livelihood, if teaching did not pay more. He speaks well and is quite jolly at times. I do think you would like him. But, as I said, I have just met him and there is much I do not know, yet.”

That was about to change, as by Christmas of that year Mr. Milford S. Boone had become a frequent (and welcome) visitor at the Pomeroy home.

After supper one evening, Mr. Boone came to call and was in the sitting room exchanging greetings with Alzie while the rest of the family were finishing chores in the kitchen. The children were playing, and Wilbur was intent on his favorite pastime of riding his stick horse furiously through the kitchen, into the sitting room and any other room that was open. “When he got to the sitting room, he stopped and turned back into the kitchen, and in a disgusted tone of voice said, “Pshaw, Boone’s come”. Those in the kitchen were embarrassed as they felt afraid those in the sitting room had heard what Wilbur said, but no – they were too interested in greeting each other to hear Wilbur. Milford knew the rest of the family welcomed him. Even seven year old Emma liked to climb up on the sofa beside him and hear him talk or sing.”

Even though Alzie went again to Teacher’s Institute in July 1890 and obtained her first grade certificate, she did not apply for a position to teach. Milford had proposed and wanted to marry before the school year began. He had a teaching position for $45 a month for eight months. That was a princely salary! On August 21, 1890 Alzina became Mrs. Alzina Pomeroy Boone, wife of Milford Sylvester Boone.

Milford and Alzina

April A to Z Challenge: Learning

Welcome to the April A to Z Blogging Challenge! This year my contribution is the story of my great grandmother Alzina. She lived in the style of “Little House on the Prairie”and kept a record of her life through letters to family and her own journals. I find her story fascinating and intriguing. Each post will start (sometimes strangely) with a consecutive letter of the alphabet, just because they have to. My hope is that we can “catch” some of her courage to help us face challenges in our present times.

Alzina and her siblings took every opportunity to learn, both at church and at community events. They went to events to hear speakers who traveled from town to town and gained reputation while inspiring their young listeners to “make something of themselves”. The young men often responded but as Alzie complained in a letter to her aunt and uncle, the young women were not often interested in education. Alzie laid the blame on the parents, but had this to say of her own father and mother who encouraged her to go past the higher grades to study to be a teacher.

“I don’t know why I have so many advantages given me. A good home, wise father and mother, kind uncles and aunts and so many others . I only hope that I may be able to give a good account of improvement to them. “

To give her “good account” she began early to give singing and music lessons to any who would learn. She taught in Sunday school as well. As small schools sprang up anywhere there were enough children to warrant them, Alzie set herself to acquiring the credentials needed to teach. In those days, teachers had to have continuing education and certification in order to secure work. It was usually one teacher per school. There was no tenure or promise of continued employment and openings for work at the schools changed from term to term. Often preferential treatment was given to relatives or friends of the school board members.

Alzie wrote to her Aunt and Uncle:

June 1888

“I told you I would write to you, but I haven’t kept my word very well. I have been very busy, though, and although that is the universal excuse, I really have had my hands full. Tomorrow is the last day of the three months school. I began at the first in all of my books, and tomorrow I take the last lesson in all but Arithmetic. I had to take 7 pages per day in some and Physiology and Civil Government were new studies to me.

I went to the county examination in April and got a 3rd grade certificate. (Certificates were “graded” according to proficiency, not the grade to be taught.) Phebe and I will both go to Normal. I am going to be just “cheeky” enough to apply for a 1st grade certificate (the highest level), even though I have never taught a term of school. I think that I can do it, if I put a good deal of time on Philosophy and Algebra. But they don’t require those who applied for 1st grade certificate last spring to be examined in Algebra, or any of the higher studies.

Phebe will go to Baldwin this fall and I want her to go until she graduates. I want to go to Emporia as soon as I can. I have applied for a school and have been promised a preference to others, but being a new school district, they don’t know much and can’t tell much about it until after the school meeting.”

Early March, 1889

“Miss Pomeroy, I can’t find my mittens. Can you help me?” Little Mary tugged on Alzie’s skirt and pleaded with her to come out to the cloak room where the children were milling about after being dismissed. It had been the last day of the term and many of the parents had come at the end to hear the children spell.

As soon as Alzina left the room, the men who had been lingering about the door carried some large boards into the room and set up a makeshift table over the desks in the front. The women fetched their baskets from the wagons outside and began to spread “the good things of this life” out for a small feast.

The surprise was ready when Alzie came back into the room and was escorted to a seat of honor by one of the fathers. It was an hour complete with speeches and compliments from the parents who were well pleased with Alzie’s work. It was a great encouragement for a young teacher starting a long career.

Miss Pomeroy and some of her first students. Pictures were rare – this one has survived a hard existence.

April A to Z Challenge: Keeping Company

Welcome to the April A to Z Blogging Challenge! This year my contribution is the story of my great grandmother Alzina. She lived in the style of “Little House on the Prairie”and kept a record of her life through letters to family and her own journals. I find her story fascinating and intriguing. Each post will start (sometimes strangely) with a consecutive letter of the alphabet, just because they have to. My hope is that we can “catch” some of her courage to help us face challenges in our present times.

Probably 1888

In Alzina’s words “mother wouldn’t allow any teasing about beaus, either. She said that she believed her two older sisters might have married happily if they hadn’t been discouraged by teasing.” Her sisters went to work in Vermont factories, and contracted tuberculosis and died.

So Alzina’s experience was markedly different. As a young girl, she had been given a gift of some cows from her grandmother (a gift we all dream of getting, right?) She asked permission to sell the cows and buy an organ on which she and her sister could take music lessons. Permission was granted, and having learned to play, their home became a gathering spot for the young people of their church and community, nearly every Sunday afternoon, for years. In this way, “dating” commenced for the Pomeroy girls.

“Our birthday is coming up soon Alzina. Would you let me plan an outing? I have something that I want to show you.”

Willard was planning what that evening would look like as he drove his new buggy to Alzie’s boarding house and helped her down. He had become so fond of her during their time of “keeping company”. They were becoming quite an item, he thought.

“Yes, that is our mutual celebration day. We might as well share some time with each other, although you are the “old man” by three years.” Alzie teased him. Ever since they had discovered their February 6th birthdays, it had seemed to be a bond of a sort. She thought well of Willard, and he did have a fine buggy. It had also been nice to have an escort to school and social affairs in the community.

As it turned out, Willard showed Alzie a ring on their birthday and asked her to marry him. It was a bit unexpected. Alzie promised to consider it, and she did over the next few months. And then she said “no”. That was not good news to Willard, to say the least. Their courtship was over.

One day some time later after the school term had ended, Alzie returned home. She found her mother in tears over something in the morning mail.

“Mother, what’s wrong? You hardly ever come to tears over letters! Did Father’s carload of hay come to disaster? Was it that bad?”

“Oh no, no loss of hay returns would concern me so much as the letter you got today. Look who it is from.” Mother, with a sad face, handed her the envelope with familiar signature on the back.

Alzie looked curiously at the envelope and went over to hug her mother. She didn’t even need to read the letter to know why Mother was troubled.

“Mother, please don’t be grieved over this. You know I refused Willard because I didn’t care for him enough to marry him, and that sentiment has not changed at all. I would never want you to worry about that. I know it was difficult for us all and having decided, I am quite content and glad. Willard was not the Christian man I had in mind, but I do have hope that he will someday be just that – for someone else who loves him better than I.”

And that is exactly what did happen. Some time later when Alzie was engaged to someone else, Willard came to call on her and asked her if she was truly happy. She was, and after hearing that, Willard was glad. About a month later he did marry a girl who loved him, and Alzie was glad for both of them. Once again, her prayers for others had been heard and answered.