He Owed God a Baptism

There was a farmstead that I visited frequently when I was young. The farm was on Round Lake so the owners also had a resort, Meier’s Log Cabins. They had a daughter around my age and in summer, I was often at their home swimming in the lake, playing with their daughter, Barb, and often was invited to eat supper. In the winter we rode the same bus back and forth to school. Barb’s mom was a great cook, and had a large garden. They had a fish tank with guppies – funny the things that impress children… The father, Phil, was a skilled carpenter (as well as a farmer and resort owner!) He had built their house and it was full of features that were a bit special, like a real upstairs bathroom. I can’t tell you all the good memories associated with that family and that beautiful place.

But like many resorts on the lake, the cabins were sold off to private owners and so was the Meier farmhouse. I lost track of Barb when she went off to college a year before me. I think I might have seen or heard of her once since 1968. But I have often wondered about the house and what changes it might have undergone. I have wondered if I would ever see Barb again.

Oddly enough, I have another friend who now owns and lives in the Meier house. I see her at church quite often and our families have history, since our parents were friends and she and her husband know my brothers quite well. Just yesterday, my brother Bob suggested we go out to visit these friends. He had asked them if they would show me the house, for old time’s sake. We went.

There was a lot going on. They were preparing their RV for a two week trip west, and in addition they were preparing food for a special event. Jan and her sister were in the kitchen cutting up fruit and vegetables, food was everywhere. After giving me a tour of the house and sitting me down with some coffee, she explained that she and her sister were getting baptized, in the lake, the next day. She was excited and told me how it had come about.

Her sister had been wanting to be baptized and she knew Jan wanted to also. Could they do it together? That would be possible if they did it in Hayward before their upcoming trip. Although they didn’t need extra things to do before their trip, everything after that decision came together quickly. Jan had a minister friend who agreed to come, they invited their guests, and the ideas for “spiritual food” to serve after the baptism buzzed in her mind so adamantly that she KNEW how right it would all be. It had the feel of God’s blessing all over it.

Then she told a story about a phone conversation with her niece, Rachel. Rachel had been at a campground and had gone to an inspiring worship service with a Messianic Jewish rabbi. “Don’t be focusing on the bad, and the confusion in our world today” he had said. “We have reasons to celebrate!” He then told them about Rosh Hashana, the Feast of Trumpets, and about how everyone should have a shofar (ram’s horn that makes an awesome loud noise) to sound in the new year and days of celebration and hope. And the day chosen for their baptism was, of all things, the day that Rosh Hashana would start at sundown. How awesome was that?!

“Well,” she said to me, “I didn’t even know what a shofar was. Do you?”

“Yes, I have one at home. We actually observe the Feast of Trumpets for its Christian meaning and message.”

“No way!”

“Yes, would you like me to bring it to you?”

And that’s how it happened that we were invited to the baptism, along with 22 other friends and family. I packed up my shofar, got Mom in the car and we went out to the farmstead this afternoon. On the way we puzzled over how we might find my childhood friend Barb. Mom suggested Facebook but neither of us knew her married name, and checking out all the Barbs was not an option.

We arrived at Jan’s house and parked. Jan was in the driveway talking and came over right away. She had another story.

She and her sister had been walking out to the road to put up a “Baptism”sign up so people could find her place. They met a man on his way to the woods where he and his son had been cutting trees to use in their maple syrup business. The son had cut one more tree than planned and this man had decided to go out and get it. They lived in the Minneapolis area and were in Hayward for the weekend. They owned one of the cabins from the resort, and the woods nearby.

He saw Jan’s sign and asked what was going on. When he found out what they were planning, he said he had been wanting to be baptized too. They invited him to join them, not expecting that he really would.

But he did. He came with his married children, grandchildren, and his wife who, it turned out, was Barb Meier, my childhood buddy. I’m sure God had fun putting this little celebration together.

It was a beautiful time. Three precious people told what it meant to them to have come to this decision. The man, Don, said he had been baptized as an infant but as an adult, he had come to feel he “owed God a baptism”. They all demonstrated their love and commitment to their Savior and God and came up from the water smiling. And I got to blow the shofar, not an easy thing to do. Surprisingly, I did it quite well and counted it as just one more miracle in a long string of miraculous happenings.

Ceremonial words
Water baptism
A biblical feast – figs, honey, dried fish, olives, bread

This is just one of the ways that God demonstrates his reality to me. He does, crazy, awesome stuff and chooses to include me in his plans. He wants me to see him that way and be a part of what he does. In this I am not unique. I think he wants everyone to know him that way. Look for it, just sayin’…

A to Z Challenge: Zeal of the Pioneers

Zeal, “great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or objective”.

Alzina, or Alzie as we have come to know her, was passionate about her faith and her family. But she had zeal toward another objective as well, one that took up a great deal of time later in her life after she retired from teaching. The cause was prohibition of alcohol. She learned from a young age to work for the cause and although “Prohibition” never became a federal law, it was adopted in some states, Kansas being one of them. It happened largely through the efforts of hard working pioneer women. Here is how it went for Alzie.

The Peach Crop Story

By Emma Pomeroy Brandt, Alzie’s younger sister.

A few years after the Civil War, in 1867, my father took a homestead in Kansas. On it he planted both shade and fruit trees, including a peach orchard. He could not go to a store and buy everything as we do now. Indeed he and Mother saw very hard times trying to get a home started and raise food for a growing family. They had gotten deeply in debt and placed a mortgage on the homestead.

One year when most crops were burning up, they had a bountiful crop of peaches, but no market to sell them. One day two well-dressed men came driving in behind a fine team of livery horses and offered Father one dollar a bushel for the whole crop.

That seemed a wonderful offer and Father started to tell them he would bring the first load the next day. He said he would pick them carefully so as not to bruise them. “Oh”, they said, “you need not be too careful. Just shake them off and scrape them up. If you get a few rotten ones, it won’t make any difference.” Then Father asked, “What are you going to do with them, that you will take rotten ones?” They answered, “We are going to make peach brandy.”

That was a big shock to Father. He thought of his debt and his family needs, and then “me, a Christian man, sell my peaches to make brandy???” They told him he would be a fool to turn down their offer when he could not sell them elsewhere. But he said, “I am raising children. They shall never be tempted to drink brandy made from MY peaches.”

So the deal was called off. He struggled on for years, and had to sell his farm to pay the mortgage, but he kept a clear conscience. He moved his family across the road onto the “timber claim” and made there the home where we five younger children were born, and which was named “Prairie Home”. I can’t remember that we ever had to go hungry for lack of food.

Later, around 1907, Alzie’s mother Philena wrote to Alzie describing her “mother’s club” which she had started for local women. These women were wives of men who were working on the railroad. The husband’s wages were often spent in the bars, leaving the women to find a way to support the family. Seeing situations like this as she was growing up, and attending local Temperance Meetings with her family, made Alzie a staunch supporter of the temperance movement. Partially retired from teaching she took work as a field secretary for the National Prohibition Party. She traveled around the United States securing pledges and support for her Party’s candidates for general elections. There were many disappointments in her work, but her zeal was undaunted, as this paragraph in a letter explains.

“I gave much time in 1941 and 1942 to work for an initiative amendment, but failed to get enough signatures in time. But I learned many lessons, and more than ever came to the feeling that the Prohibition Party is the only force that God can use to overthrow the liquor traffic. It is the “Joshua and Caleb” of the dry movement. But, as the majority kept the people of Israel out of the Promised Land forty years, so the “old party drys” may keep from having prohibition that long, too. But the Prohibition Party will be victorious in the end as Joshua and Caleb were.”

There was no lasting success, although Kansas was a state that wrote a prohibition amendment in its constitution, and upheld it longer than any other state. Follow this link to read about some amazing women activists of the Temperance movement. Kansas and Prohibition

My grandfather John, sister Esther (seated), mother Alzina and sister Ethel. There were many more stories of their pioneer life but there are only 30 days in April. #April A to Z Blogging Challenge. Thank you for reading.

A to Z Challenge: Yearnings

Alzina Boone, widowed at a young age and with a family of four children to support, finds herself struggling to be a teacher at school, and a mother at home. In the early days of Kansas settlement, life was not easy for anyone, much less a single parent. Her faith in a caring God, and sheer necessity kept her going when others might have given up. She was my great grandmother and these are her true stories.

“Life was full of interest to all of us, and when I heard the words in song, “earth has no charms for me” I realized that I might easily forget eternal things, if I didn’t earnestly purpose in my heart to “set my affections on things above”. The song “Nearer, My God to Thee” which has words “even though it be a cross that raises me” became my earnest prayer, as I thought of how fleeting are earth’s joys and how liable to change. A sense of impending danger and sorrow haunted me for some weeks after school closed. But my spirit rose above all dread and fear when I read the words in Psalm 145:18,19 one morning, about June 15th, in morning worship. “The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him. He will fulfill the desire of them that fear Him.” This assured me that God was nearer to me than any danger, and I felt safe and light heartedly happy in His keeping. This presence bore me up even when the blow fell.

On June 28 Stanley was drowned while swimming in a creek a mile from home after 6 o’clock.

He had told us at noon that he wanted to go swimming after office hours and would be home an hour late. He was always careful to tell me where and when he was going and to return on time to give me no anxiety. So when he didn’t return before sundown, I knew something detained him. I got neighbors to go with John to find him. They brought his lifeless body home about 9 o’clock that night. While they were searching, some Christian women workers from the Faith Home came to comfort and help me and the girls. I went to my room to pray alone. I found myself praying more for Stanley’s spiritual safety than for physical safety and the words of scripture “It is well with the child.” came to me forcibly from the presence that seemed so near me. I was sustained and comforted even in the loss and grief I felt when they came with his body and called me to the door, saying “We found him. He is dead.”

A doctor had been called to join the search. He said the water was too cold and had given cramps to Stanley, making him helpless in the water. Had anyone been with him, they would probably have drowned with him. But how I wished I had not consented to him going swimming that night. But as I prayed, many comforting memories and messages were given me. Stanley had assured me that he wasn’t afraid of lightening as we watached a storm approaching on Wednesday night on our way home from prayer meeting. He said, “I know I’m ready now.” How it comforts the Christian loved ones when the departed dear ones leave the testimony that they are “ready”.

I longed for a visit from Stanley as I had been given in dreams of Milford Sylvester, but I did not pray for such a blessing, for so much had already been given me in proof of God’s care for Stanley. But God did give me such a dream, even if I didn’t ask for it. I dreamed I was late to prayer meeting and all were kneeling in prayer, many near the door. When we rose from prayer, a song was started and I sang too. I noticed a surprised look from the leaders toward my part of the room. So I looked around to see what was surprising and there stood Stanley, book in hand, singing too. When the meeting was dismissed, Stanley passed out with the crowd. I remembered I wanted to hear Stanley talk, so I hurried out and overtook him. I asked, “How do you like your new home, Stanley?”

He replied in his own dear voice, “Well Mamma, you know I never liked to move to a new place, but always after I got moved I liked the new place and wanted to fence it off and stay there forever. Well, it is just the same now in heaven, only always before there was something I lacked and longed for. Now that something I always lacked and longed for is in me and all around me.” And as he said this, I felt that he was filled with a bliss that I could not express. I believe God gave me the dream. “

A to Z Challenge: Xanguish

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.

There are not enough words beginning with x, so I will take the liberty of making one up. The word is “xanguish”. It stands for extreme anguish, and I have to say that this story broke my motherly heart.

Stanley, in the back row, second from the right. Probably a graduation picture from 8th grade.

This said it all. I can only imagine the grief.

A to Z Challenge: Wildwood School

Alzina Boone, widowed at a young age and with a family of four children to support, finds herself struggling to be a teacher at school, and a mother at home. In the early days of Kansas settlement, life was not easy for anyone, much less a single parent. Her faith in a caring God, and sheer necessity kept her going when others might have given up. She was my great grandmother and these are her true stories.

1906

Another move. Alzie, still searching for a school for that term, was convinced to uproot the household and go to Iowa. The promised job there in Trenton, was not at all to her liking and they agreed to pay her way to Tabor, a nearby town, where she had friends. Stanley stayed in Eskridge, supporting the family with his newspaper job until he was sent for.

“We went, “not knowing whither we went” or what welcome awaited us. Another adventure of faith. But I was borne above any fear by a supernatural assurance that God had a place for us there, and I reasoned that each of us could earn at least our board somewhere.

We arrived at Tabor on a cold, snowy day when snow was about two feet deep. We found paths made to the Faith Home and were given a Christian welcome there. Friends we had known in Eskridge who now lived across a ten acre pasture from the Faith Home offered to rent to us two rooms, one upstairs and one downstairs.

Folks told me that the Wildwood School, three miles west of the Faith Home wanted a teacher, and Elder Weaver recommended me to them. They came into town to meet me and gave me their contract for the school, which was to begin the next Monday, at $35 a month for three months. A horse and buggy was loaned to me by a friend of the Faith Home. The Training Home offered to give Stanley a job in the printing office, no salary, but board and lodging, so I sent word for him to come, using his money for fare. I promised to give him money later to buy a camera which he had long wanted. Both of my boys disliked to leave one place for another.

That three month term of school was pleasant and I was engaged for the next year, eight months at the same salary. During the summer vacation I found work easily in the homes of Tabor and so did the girls. John got steady work on farms near town, and Stanley got work in the Tabor Beacon newspaper office at $5 per week. My mother wrote to me “you are eating your white bread now”. It was marvelous to all of us the way God had opened for us and prospered us. “They that trust in the Lord shall not be confounded.”

Along in July 1906 we rented a seven room house from the same man who loaned us the horse and buggy. That was a happy year. Fruit was plentiful and we secured enough to can more than 100 quarts, beside a lot of glasses of jelly, We gathered apples on shares, and had ten or twelve bushels of apples stored in the cellar – Jonathan, Winesap, and Grimes Golden. We had potatoes and pumpkin and vegetables also stored, enough for more than a year.

Ethel had become quite proficient in cooking and ventured on many a new recipe to our great delight in eating. Both girls were neat housekeepers and very careful with their clothes. They earned most of the money they used for clothes. Esther’s joy was almost unbounded when she could dress with “everything new that she wore” one Sunday. They did much of their own sewing too.

John kept the yard and garden clean and neat, and took care of the horse and chickens. He also kept the wood box filled. All this besides working by the day for neighbors on vacation, or in occasional jobs.

Stanley used his out-of-office hours either in camera work, or studying telegraphy or engineering, or in some kind of athletics. He was growing so tall and yet was so thin that he was ashamed of it, and exercised a great deal to develop more muscle. He had established a five mile run that he made two or three times a week in good weather. He was ambitious to become able to support the family without my having to teach school or work out so much. He liked telegraphy and corresponded with some schools about taking a course. “

A to Z Challenge: Very Tough Times

Alzina Boone, widowed at a young age and with a family of four children to support, finds herself struggling to be a teacher at school, and a mother at home. In the early days of Kansas settlement, life was not easy for anyone, much less a single parent. Her faith in a caring God, and sheer necessity kept her going when others might have given up. She was my great grandmother and these are her true stories.

1904 – 1905

Alzina moved the family 45 miles away to Eskridge for this fall term. Her brother-in-law, Ora, was trustee on the board of Eskridge Bible School and she contracted to teach there in return for $15 a month and room and board for herself and the four children. She was not always paid when it was due and things got tough.

“The trustees failed to pay me the $15 agreed upon, and the matron of Faith Home objected to my discipline of her twelve year old daughter and tried to get the trustees to dismiss me. Two trustees stood for me, so the matron and her daughter left about the middle of the year. I had become inspired with the vision that more than half of the supporters of the Eskridge Bible School had for the future of the school, and I decided I would stay with the work as long as I had evidence of God’s approval and of these good people. I had the work of the Faith Home to take care of after the matron left. There were four children beside my four, all near the same age as mine. In addition to this was my work as teacher of four grades.

Alzina (far right) and a group of her students.

There were times when we didn’t know where we would get anything for the next meal. It was truly an adventure of faith for me, but I had felt that God wanted me there, and would see me through. So I didn’t complain to my parents, or to Ora, my brother-in-law, though he was a trustee, but was having his own tests and persecutions and adventures of faith, of which we may write later.

The trustees sent a basket of bread to us each Tuesday, and my cow gave two gallons or more of milk each day, and pasture was provided by friends. The closest test was one day when, at noon, we had eaten the last boat of bread or any kind of food in the house. I told the children about it and said that we would meet in the dining room right after school to pray as did the orphans in the London Orphan’s Home, of which much had been read and told in the Faith Home Circle.

At 4 o’ clock, after all pupils had gone home, I put away my papers and closed my desk to go home. As I passed through the door from my room to the hallway, Mrs. Cody, who had seemed to join in opposing me, was coming down the steps, and she handed me a 25 cent piece, saying “The Lord told me to give this to you.” So I was happy to tell the children to thank the Lord for answering before we even called.

I bought a sack of cornmeal and we had mush and milk for the evening and the morning meal. And the basket of bread came before noon next day. I cannot say that God would have one teacher bear such a load of responsibility and faith with so little cooperation, but I am glad for this experience which proved that God honors those who dare to sacrifice for his cause, and trust his promises.

In the spring when school was out, we rented a four room cottage in the northeast part of Eskridge at four dollars a month, where we lived six months or more.

As Stanley had learned to set type in the office of “The Old Paths”, founded by Ora as organ of the Eskridge Bible School, he applied and secured a job at the Eskridge newspaper office at $5 a week, ten hours a day for six days a week. While Stanley had a job, it seemed best that we should stay at this place until something else opened. Thus the three other children could be kept in the Bible School. I was not invited to teach there.

John raised some garden and chickens, and took good care of the cow, and by little jobs here and there, he usually had some money in his pockets. It seemed almost magical and we laughed gaily about his always finding money to his surprise in his pockets.”

A to Z Challenge: Unspoiled Children, Untiring Parent

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.

Summers in between teaching contracts found Alzie reconnecting to her children. In addition she was often taking on extra work sewing, cleaning or giving music lessons as well as studying and keeping up her teaching certificates. These are summer stories from the years 1901 -1906

Alzie and two of the children in the back of the boat.

The Things Children Say, as told by Alzie

The milk from our Jersey cow was rich and made yellow butter, but the children had been accustomed to milk from a Holstein cow while they had stayed with Father and Mother. Ethel voiced the disappointment of all when she said querulously, “Why can’t we have nice, white butter like Grandma has?”

We rented pasture for the cows during the summer in Emporia. In the pasture were a number of “sloughs” or ravines which wound around so the cows were sometimes hard to find. One evening when Timothy (Alzie’s brother) was visiting us, the boys had reported they couldn’t find the cows, and Timothy had spoken incredulously of the sloughs hiding the cows. Charles (another brother) spoke defensively, turning to John for confirmation “Why, the sloughs are so crooked that a snake could hardly follow them, could it?” And John answered “‘T’would break its back”, convulsing Timothy and all of us in a long spell of laughter.”

A Salvation Story, as told by Alzie

“Often on summer evenings in 1902, when bedtime prayers had been offered and the children were tucked into bed, I would sit at the side of one of the beds and we would talk awhile. One night in June something was said about Christ’s second coming. As the children asked questions, I answered as best I knew, stressing most the joy his coming will bring to those who are saved. Suddenly, Ethel wailed with a tearful voice, “I want to be saved, but nobody has ever told me how.” As I told her to pray, to tell God how she felt and what she desired until she knew she was saved, Stanley called out, “Mama, come here,” and he whispered the same desire. John did too and they began heartfelt seeking God, with my help. After a few moments, Ethel said happily, “Mamma, I have such a happy feeling here,” placing her hand on her heart.

Soon the boys, too, expressed their assurance that they were saved. Ethel too, joined in the prayer and the general expression of happiness and confidence that we were ready for Jesus’ coming. The next Sunday was “Children’s Day” and the pastor gave a good sermon and invited all children who were saved or wanted to be saved to come forward, and my children went joyfully with ten other children, most of whom confessed the Lord as their Saviour and their faith that he had saved them. “

Going for a Ride, John’s story as told by Alzie

One week in August, our neighbors north of us engaged John to take their calf to water each day while they were all at work. The calf was about six months old, a thoroughbred red, and well fed and strong. The calf had been snapped with a long rope to the clothes line south of the house. John had to unsnap the rope to get the calf over to the well for watering. The calf got to feeling playful after drinking, taking off so quickly that it caught one of John’s feet in the loose rope and jerked him down. With the calf skidding him around the yard at a lively pace, John seized the rope with his hands and attempted to ride in a sitting position while trying to free his foot. They went around the house three times, the calf bellowing and John calling for help. As they passed under the clothesline each round, the seat of his trousers got well “greased” so he continued to slide, until at last the calf darted into the open barn door and John’s foot came free of the rope. He was left sitting at the barn door threshold, looking sheepishly to see if any neighbors had seen the episode. A neighbor boy called out kindly “Are you hurt?” and John answered that he was okay.

Punishment Averted, Stanley’s story as told by Alzie

“At another bedtime session, Stanley had done some wrong to the other children and they were crying. I set him on a chair to wait till I comforted and quieted the others, and then I must punish him. As I descended the stairs after all was quiet with the others, I heard Stanley singing softly to himself (he was a sweet singer),

“Just say there is no other, can take the place of Mother,
And kiss her dear sweet lips for me, and break the news to her.”
Published in 1897, a popular song during the Spanish American War

A to Z Challenge: Teacher’s Trials

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.

1899 – 1904

The next few years Alzina worked hard to secure teaching contracts in schools near her supportive family in order to stay close to her children. It wasn’t always possible. Her parents were her primary help, and the children’s memories are largely of being raised by their grandparents. In 1901 it became clear that she was not going to be able to keep the farm. Her parents also had to leave their “prairie home” and go to the city of Emporia, where grandfather Emerson Pomeroy went into the blacksmith business, in which he prospered.

Grandfather Pomeroy’s blacksmith shop in Emporia

Alzie’s children went with their grandparents to Emporia, which created a painful separation for Alzie, who stayed with her contracted school. She joined them there the next summer. She taught the next few years at various schools in the Emporia area. The children were all old enough by this time to be helping with work at home. The boys even worked on farms in the summers. The following story took place in 1904. Alzie was teaching at the Waterworks School and they were all loving being together in their own house… until this happened.

“The four children had the measles that winter while I taught at the Waterworks School and we were glad that I could be at home every night. With Emma and Mother so near through the days, I did not miss a day of school. But another teacher secured that school for the next year and before the annual school meetings were held I became ill with smallpox.

My illness and the quarantine that was imposed on us took so long that all the desirable schools were taken before I could visit any. The two boys had been vaccinated at school, so Mother and Father kept them while I was quarantined, that they might be free to get employment during the summer. Ethel too, had been vaccinated, so she and Esther devoted themselves to caring for me. They fumigated the house and our clothing and obeyed all rules of sanitation. They were so successful, that even Esther who had not been vaccinated was immune to the disease.

The rash covered my entire body and all membranes of my mouth and nose and gave me such internal misery the first two days. I was relieved from pain after prayer at family worship the second night, but then broke out profusely with pox within and without. However, I was completely delivered from every pock, though I counted 66 on my face in the mirror. The rest of my body was as profusely pocked as my face, but all got well without a scar. And this smallpox proved to be one of the “all things” that work together for good, for all those picks or boils had so purged my system that never since have I been so tired and worn out at the close of the school year as I had been the previous four years.

No one had taken the smallpox from me, for which we were all grateful. Stanley and John had earned a good reputation as gardeners and farmers, beside earning quite a bit of money. Johnny had so pleased a farmer north of Emporia that the farmer offered to adopt John, and John wanted to stay with him, but the farmer cared little about God or heaven, and I couldn’t consider leaving John with him.”

This year of teaching was summed up by Alzie in a way that teacher’s today can probably identify with. Alzina’s teacher checklist:

“That year at the Waterworks School was fairly pleasant and successful. Father secured a horse and buggy for me. When I got into the buggy after my boys got “Fanny” hitched up, about 8 o’clock each morning, there were some things I learned to check to save embarrassment: 1. My school door key. 2. My glasses (spectacles) 3. My false teeth. 4. My watch. 5. My lunch.”

Alzina and her students. What were they all looking at?

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