Dec. 13-19, 1918

Dec. 13

Feeling a lot better and can stand more.

Dec. 14

Worked hard to get the Sat. work done. Azel came home and sure looked good. just awful fat. Went up town for the first time since sick. Also went to choir practice. got in at 11.

Dec. 15

Went to Sunday School, practice, League and Congo, church. We “six” had a great time, went to bed at 12.

Dec. 16

Went to school. Prof. started out “cranky” and the whole bunch got sore, then he cheered up a little. went to a show, kinda rotten. went out riding. Home at 11:30.

Dec. 17

School, and another show which was awful, home at 11.

Dec. 18

Went to school and choir practice. It was awful slippery and of course I felt flat right in the middle of the street. got home at 11.

Dec. 19

Mother went to the farm, had lunch at “Mollies”, went up town after supper and also wrapped Xmas packages. went to bed at 9.

Clara is finally feeling better after nearly two weeks with the flu. And now she’s well enough to get her Saturday chores done and to attend choir practice. 

Her older brother Azel comes home. I think he is away at college. He would be the right age, and I cannot find any history of military service. I laughed at her comment about how he looked: “awful fat.” Looks like the Freshman 15 is not a new problem.

And then we have the first mention of church, which surprises me because from this point on, Clara seems to attend church, and often Sunday school, every week. Perhaps the churches were closed due to the Spanish flu just as the schools were closed. In 1918, Cresbard hosted two churches, a Lutheran church and a United Methodist church. 

I assume Clara and her family attended the Methodist church because she and everyone else in her family is listed as Methodists in the 1915 South Dakota state census. Plus, Clara’s oldest brother Clarence, my grandfather, was Methodist, my dad was Methodist, and I was also raised Methodist.

Clara then mentions going to League and Congo. The only local “League” I have been able to identify is the South Dakota Universal Franchise League, which was founded and led by Mary “Mamie” Pyle in 1910 after the fourth failed attempt to gain the women’s vote in South Dakota. 

Mamie Pyle

Women in the state reorganized because they realized that the powerful liquor industry, concerned women would vote for prohibition, sponsored activities around the state to make sure women would not get the vote. This new League separated itself from prohibitionists and focused solely on the vote. In 1914 and 1916, the League was not successful in its bid for the women’s vote. But they finally succeeded in 1918. But the League’s work wasn’t finished. 

The organization continued to fight for the state ratification of the 19thAmendment, which occurred on December 4, 1919.

Another interesting tidbit – Mamie Pyle, in November 1920, because the first American woman to serve as a presidential elector.

League Broadside 1916

For the life of me, I have no idea what Congo is referring to. But they all had a great time, so there’s that.

And then Clara went to bed at midnight. Throughout this journal, I have been surprised by how late she stays up, especially on school days such as this one. And for the next few days, she says she gets home at 11, 11:30 – that also seems pretty late for a school night. But I suppose she is a senior, and seniors do tend to enjoy their last year of high school. 

The next day at school, she points out that the teacher, the “Prof.” started the day out “cranky” but not to fear, for he later “cheered up a little.” The most interesting part of this to me is that the “Prof.” is a man. Again, I have always been led to believe that only women were teachers, especially 100 years ago and in a rural community. 

Faulkton is a town less than twenty miles from Cresbard and the county seat of Faulk County. We have seen from earlier installments that people seem to travel quite a bit between Cresbard and Faulkton. At this time, Faulkton was about twice the size of Cresbard, population 700 as opposed to 350. The town built a new high school in 1901, with Prof. J. H. Armstrong as principal. Mr. Curtis, Mrs. Frieze, Miss Pickler, and Miss Coman were listed as teachers. And the county superintendent of schools in 1907 was a woman, Mrs. Alden, even before women earned the vote.

I did find an article published by MIT’s Women’s and Gender Studies Department titled “The Feminization of Teaching in America” that addresses this issue. Apparently, education was undergoing a huge transformation in the late 1800s and early 1900s as it switched from a male profession to to a female profession. You can read the article for a much more detailed discussion – it is actually pretty interesting.

That evening and the next, she attends a couple of shows, one which is “kinda rotten,” and the other is “awful.” Doesn’t sound like that much fun.

Inez, Mrs. Perry Clifford aka Crazy Shaw

But according to my dad’s brother, my uncle Keith, Cresbard was town with a surprising amount of talent. He was born only six months after this week’s entries, which means his mother Emily was pregnant at this time. So he would have been in high school in the early 30s. He writes of the Cresbard music teacher, Inez Shaw, who married Perry Clifford in 1917 after completing two years of college. It’s possible she went to college with Clarence, my grandfather. I’m not sure when she started teaching music, but since she would have been 24 years old in 1918, it is possible she had just began teaching when Clara was writing this journal.

Here is what Keith had to say about their music teacher, Inez Shaw (or Mrs. Perry Clifford), who would have been in her thirties at this point.

For size and location, Cresbard was a cultural little town, and I think a good part of this can be laid to the credit of Mrs. Perry Clifford. It is my belief that she went to college with my dad. Her maiden name was Shaw and her nickname was crazy. In school they called her Crazy Shaw. And I think she was crazy. But she did some amazing things for being poor and out in that desolate area. We did the contata every year, which was a pretty ambitious undertaking. We did a number of plays every year. We did at least one of the Gilbert and Sullivans every year. And I think I could test myself, but I know most of the lyrics to Pirates of Penzance, which I was in more than once.


“Every holiday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day that we call it now, used to be Armistice Day, was observed, and was observed with speeches and band concerts and more so than it is today when people don’t have time or can’t get off their jobs and that sort of thing.

I don’t sound like it now, but I had quite a good singing voice. But the whiskey and the cigarettes and the time got to it, but I did a lot, a lot of singing and things that were done in that little town. I took singing lessons from Mrs. Perry Clifford, which was quite an ordeal. And I managed to get out of it. She had a furnace in that house, and it was the warmest place in the house cause you were right on top of the furnace. And she seemed to have a great preoccupation with the diaphragm. She’d get me standing up there, feeling her diaphragm while she was singing. And it was really embarrassing to me. And in addition to that, people didn’t take baths like they do nowadays, and it was really sort of noxious as well. If I didn’t rise higher in music as a singer, it was probably because I wasn’t willing to take my singing lessons from Mrs. Perry Clifford. 

But the woman deserves an awful lot of credit, but probably didn’t get it. I certainly hope she did because she sort of single-handedly put that cantata together, and Handel’s Messiah, all with just a bunch of country people. And I bet it was good. I have nothing to judge it against today. I don’t really know what it sounded like. But I know at the time it was kind of a thrilling thing. And quite surprising, this small isolated community of farmers.

(Here’s a production of Pirates of Penzance, and here’s Handel’s Messiah)

Inez and her husband Perry never did have any children. But they did live in the area until they each died, she in 1978, a month after her husband passed. There’s no telling how long she continued to teach music in that little town.

According to the book The History of Faulk County, published in 1909, I found some information on organizations in Faulkton. And I should note, that Faulkton and Cresbard are very close, and families lived in both places and knew each other well. In fact, Clarence’s wife, Emily, was from Faulkton. And Faulkton is the county seat for Faulk country, where Cresbard is located. One was the Tuesday Club, founded in 1897, of which Emily’s mother served as president. It was a literary club for women and had a limited membership. The club read Shakespeare, studied the history of multiple companies, and studied such topics as art, government, geography, and literature.

“Each year one program at least has been devoted to both the question of Household Economics and the Woman Question.” (p. 208)

Another organization in Faulkton was the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle that only existed in the 1880s. “Its membership was composed of doctors, lawyers, merchants, bankers, editors, ministers, housewives, young men and maidens, about fifty in all, and the flow of wit and wisdom was unsurpassed in any other literary circle of the land.” (212)

There were many notable events in connection with these meetings that cannot even be mentioned in a short article, but who of the old crowd will ever forget Frank Turner’s recitation of “Tam O’Shanter,” or the lecture on Burns by Captain Douglas of Seneca, or the time the gentlemen played “Pyramus and Thisby” from Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Nights Dream.” Joe Bottum played the part of “Bottum,” Joel Booth the part of “Pyramus,” Leslie Bailey “Thisby,” A.W. Morse “Wall,” and C.A. Morse “Moonshine.”

The birthdays of all the great authors were appropriately celebrated in turn, and many brilliant papers were read. The greatest event in the circle’s history was when Albion W. Tourgee lectured in Faulkton on “Socialism and its Allies,” and a grand reception by the circle, at the “Morse House,” at which he read selections from his own writings. His gracious, friendly cordiality was fully appreciated by those present and he seemed equally pleased with his entertainment and entertainers.

Joe Bottom – my great grandfather

And the Joe Bottum playing “Bottum” (haha)? Yep, that is Emily’s father (my great-grandfather).

Then like so many of us growing up where ice coats the streets and sidewalks, Clara slips and falls in the middle of the street. Seems like a good place to stop for this day’s installment of the journal.

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