Nov. 15-21, 1918

Nov. 15

Awful misty day. Mother made my white shirt. went to the funeral and got along all-right playing. wrote to Azel and Florence.

Nov. 16

Done the sat. work, raining today, went over town twice, took a bath, read.

Nov. 17

Got up about 8. took the milk over to town and got “Linda”, a book from Harriet. read, had dinner at 3:30. Edgar came about 5. went over town after snowfor ice-cream, had pie – such as it was – at Bechtols. made the ice cream in short order, awful good, had an awful time and the “fur did fly” – wore my new sweater today and nite, went to bed at 12.

Nov. 18

Went over town, read, finished “Linda” and sure good. got our pictures.

Nov. 19

Washed, Mother and I went over town. Mother ordered me a cedar chest for Xmas, seen Harriet and we went over to see Rose, got home late. Bought some grey silk for a dress today.

Nov. 20

Ironed, finished “Robert Graham” – also good, went over town, got home too late to cut out my dress. “Rited” some crepe for a Teddy and started making it. Edgar came, had cracker jack, went to bed at 11:30.

Nov. 21

Cut out my dress, sewed on my Teddy, went over town. Mr. Sheldon was here.

Ray Harringtons’s gravesite in Cresdbard Cemetery

The funeral where Clara “got along well” playing at the funeral is Ray Harrington’s. He was the 25-year-old from the previous installment who was recently married and left a pregnant wife upon his death from the Spanish flu. 

After the funeral, Clara wrote to Azel and Florence. Azel is her older brother, and he is 20 years old at this point. Based on discussions later in the journal of Azel’s roommate from Brookings, I believe he is away at college, possibly South Dakota State University in Brookings. Florence, on the other hand is a young girl around Clara’s age.

Florence McComb was the second of five children, all born in Cresbard. As was common at the time, Florence was nine-years-old when her six-year-old sister died. Florence’s father developed asthma, and when it continually got worse, his doctor told him he needed to move to a different climate. So he sold the farm at an auction and bought a trunk for each child to pack up. Apparently he also had an organ that was packed up and shipped to Chambers, New York, a hamlet in the town of Caitlin, where he bought a farm. Florence would have been 13 or 14 at this time. A year or two later, Florence moved to Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, 50 miles away from her home in Chambers to work in a factory; she worked there until she married in 1920 at age 18. And she would have been working in that factory when Clara was writing her on November 15, 1918. 

Every Saturday, Clara mentions doing the Saturday work. She clearly has chores during the week as well, for she mentions doing the wash and then ironing on the day after, and this repeats every week. But the only other time she mentions chores is her Saturday work. She never gives us the detail of what this work might entail, but we can probably take a good guess.

Certainly chores were separated by gender. And because Clara had two older brothers, Clarence (my grandfather) and Azel, they would have helped out their father on the farm. And most likely Clara and her younger sister Flossie helped their mother around the house.

Some of the chores she probably did may have included straining the milk freshly brought in from the barn, tending to the garden, feeding chicken or other lifestock, collecting eggs. Perhaps she preserved, processed, and canned food. She would have swept and washed dishes, and she would have helped her mother in the kitchen with meal preparation, cooking and baking. These were probably done all week, so I am not sure what specifically was considered her Saturday work.

For more information on the daily life on a farm from the perspective of a 30-year-old woman in 1900. Read about halfway down to get to a recitation of a typical day for her.   

The second is a man’s description of growing up on a farm in Tennessee in the early 1900s. He discusses life from 1918-1922, when he was 8-12 years old. 

Clara also takes taking a bath. 

George Horen

It is important to understand that Clara and her extended family underwent huge changes in financial standing over the years. Her father George started with nothing, homesteading in a sod house. And he built up a very successful farm business. He ended up leaving the farm to his oldest son (my grandfather,), Clarence, while he and the rest of the family, including Clara, moved to California (which Clara discusses in later journal entries). Clarence and his wife Emily had given birth to their first child, a boy, only a few months before they left, and the new family remained in Cresbard to run the farm. 

Their first child, George Keith Horen, wrote a bit about the water situation on that farm. He first writes about the early years of the land, in the 1890s.

In the 1890s I suppose, it was discovered that there was artesian water under that part of South Dakota but that it was down 700 or 800 feet. A “water-weller” came out and drilled the well on the farm quite a long ways from the house, as a matter of fact. When he had gotten down to about 600 feet and hadn’t hit water, he broke off something in his equipment and lost his drill bit. He wasn’t able to recover it and had to start again, nearby, and drill a whole new well. And then he struck water on that one at about 150 feet. When he struck water, it was, think of an oil geyser, with water spraying out in the air. It was difficult to cap off. and then for I suppose 30 years, that well had pressure. We really scored water. We really scored water.

George Keith Horen, probably around 12 years old.

Then he continued to describe his memories growing up on the same farm in the 1920s and early 1930s.

We had running water in the house which consisted of one spigot over the sink. There was no bathroom incidentally. Baths were taken in the kitchen in a tub, close to the stove in the winter time. In the summer time, we had a shower that was out by the artesian well. It consisted of a metal tank with a hose, and it was somebody’s job to throw the hose up there and see if it got filled up every morning so that the hot sun beating down on it would heat the water up enough so we would have a pleasant place to take a shower. 

We also had a cistern under the house that we filled with a horse-drawn water tank. We took the tank to the well and filled it up, and the horses pulled it up to side of the house. Then the water in the cistern had a little pitcher pump, and that was our main source of water most of the time. 

But then they were hit with the Great Depression, a Biblical infestation of grasshoppers, and the Dust Bowl. And if you have a moment, read about the grasshoppers in the Dakotas in 1931 and 1932, when they swarmed the state and devastated crops. The drought in the next few years killed off the grasshoppers but destroyed any hope the farmers may have had of growing a successful crop.  

A devastated field near Pierre in a photo from Aug. 1, 1933.
(South Dakota State Historical Society archives).

Clarence ultimately loses the farm and after a brief stint at his in-laws home, he takes his family to Minnesota, where they move from farm to farm until they settle down at what my dad called Farm #4, where he spent most of his childhood. 

Water came from a hand pump between the house and the barn. There as a windmill, but in later years a one-cylinder engine was hooked up. It provided dependable power for filling the cattle tank near the barn via a hose. This tank was the principle source of water for all the animals via a five-gallon pail to the hog house, the chicken coop, and when cattle couldn’t be let out because of the weather, to the barn. I have always attributed the fact that my right arm is ½ inch longer than my left to these pails. The tank had to be kept ice free. If not, all watering was from pails pumped directly from the well. Water for the house was pumped into a pail and carried into the house.

And then he adds, “You may wonder about baths, laundry, etc. Don’t. Ourselves, our clothes, and our home were kept clean.” 

Something else that caught my eye was the phrase used by Clara, “went over town,” which clearly means “went to town.” It is a phrase that is repeated throughout this journal, and it is a phrase I have never heard nor seen written, that I can remember. But a quick internet search shows that the phrase has been used quite frequently. But I haven’t been able to find any history on it. Is it regional? Is it old-fashioned? I don’t know.

Caroline Lee Hentz

And there’s more reading this week. The two books she read are both by the same author, Caroline Lee Hentz, a very popular American author credited with making women’s fiction popular. She was a Northerner who lived with her husband and children in the South, and much of her fiction was a defense of Southerners against Northern criticism. 

An interesting note about her is that when she lived in Cincinnati (1832), she joined a literary group to which Harriet Beecher Stowe also belonged. Later, she would publish The Planter’s Northern Bride (1854), which she meant as a response to Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852).

The first book Clara read was Linda; or The Young Pilot of the Belle Creole, published in 1850.

The second, Robert Graham, was the sequel to Linda, written in 1856, the year before Hentz died.

Both books were popular when they were published, and today, scholars consider them to be culturally important to an understanding the Antebellum South. It looks like Clara enjoyed them both. 

Clara writes that the ice cream was “awful good, had an awful time and the ‘fur did fly.’” That is so confusing! I assume by saying the ice cream is awful good, she meant that it was GREAT. But when she writes they had an awful time, I assume she meant they had a terrible time. Especially since she adds that the “fur did fly.” What in the world happened? This is when I wish she would expand, even just a little bit. But it does make me happy that she wore the sweater that she had been knitting for the past couple of weeks. 

As usual, Clara hangs out with Harriet and Edgar, who we met in previous installments, but this week they go see Rose. Rose is the older sister of Joe Daley, who died of influenza on October 25th, only three weeks ago.

Butterick “cami-knickers” 5124 April 1924

In her last two entries, Clara “Rited” some crepe for a Teddy and then sewed the Teddy. Maybe someone reading this can help me out. I am not a seamstress, so I don’t know what she means by “rited” some crepe. And then I was curious about the Teddy. I assume she is referring to the lingerie. But my research indicates that teddies were invented in the 1920s by Theodore Baer. Wikipedia, however, indicates that the precursor to the teddy was the camiknicker, which first came on the scene in the 1910s. As the name indicates, it was a combination of a camisole and knickers to make a one-piece undergarment. But that would make it surprising that Clara would call it a Teddy.

Butterick’s description

If anyone knows more about this than I do, please let me know! In the meantime, join me for the next installment when Clara and her friends return to school after six weeks off.

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