Marshall Historical Society
Life on West Hills
Eunice Jones Hansel
Henry Ruth, two Roberts families, Eagan Family, Fords, Champions, Joneses and Petersons shared threshing times. There were lots and lots of parties. I'll admit we never lacked for good times of one kind or another. My parents told me that back in the 1890s most farms were 60 to 70 acres. Farmers had six or seven cows, and 52 apple trees. Apples were the only fresh fruit they had. Apple varieties included: pippins, seek-no-further, snow, and pound sweet. They made cider and drank it when it was fresh. Later it was made into vinegar - an important article (to clean lime from a teakettle). An old story says: "Johnny do you know where your father is?" Johnny said, "Yes he is down in the cellar putting mother in the cider barrel." This vinegar stopper needed a proper time to be placed in at the right time.
Stock Miller lived near Knoxboro. He admired a girl and took her a bag of apples. This meant he was serious. He was very shy and went Saturday night courting. Then he went on Wednesday with some seek-no-furthers. Molly got the idea and they were married.
My father was musical and he came into the house whistling with the pails of milk. That meant to get busy and get the milk pans out to strain the milk. After the cream had set, we would skim the cream off and mother made butter. Mother had the knack of getting all the buttermilk out. The butter was packed in crocks and delivered to customers.
I had two older sisters and two older brothers. I was the youngest and had to feed the chickens and gather the eggs. If any of you have done that in the spring, you know how mean they are when nesting. It was hard to get the eggs away from the hens.
My brother Rugg and I had to go to the pasture to find stray cows and calves. When roaming around, we didn't always look for cows. We found some butternuts in a hole in a tree where squirrels had placed them. We also found an old hornet's nest we thought was empty, but it wasn't.
Kerosene lamps had to be cleaned with vinegar water to wash the globes to get nice and shiny.
One of the conveniences that we had was a telephone. If you came into the house and were bored, you could always lift the receiver and listen to a neighbor's phone conversations. If you wanted to get the operator it was one long ring. Our phone was two shorts and one long.
When I was 8 or 9 years old my dad came in one morning and it was the busy springtime. My father came in and said Big Dan had a loose shoe. He felt that I was old enough and responsible enough to send and get right back home again. So I took Dan, driving carefully so that he didn't lose the shoe. My father gave me a nickel to buy ice-cream at Hogan's corner. If you were from Clinton you knew what that meant. We were going down Dugway Road when we went around the second or third curve and there in the middle of the road was a whole bunch of gypsies. They were all over with their wagon. Well, my adulthood vanished and I really traveled fast until getting to Suppe's, where I felt safe. Anyway, we got there and the blacksmith fixed him up.
At our farm we cut logs, had a sugar bush, and kept bees; but I believe we had hay as our source of income. My dad's specialty was alfalfa hay, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th cuttings. I had to drive the hay fork. You know what a job that was to hold the horse with whipple tree and drive to the right spot and trip the rope. I was glad when I graduated from that stage of raking hay. We had one of the old iron hay rakes. The raking had to be done right. Dad didn't want any hay left in the lot. When the tines were full, you tripped the hay. In the winter the hay was sold to Mr Billingham. There was a railroad car to fill. All the men in the neighborhood got together and had the bay baled, weighing it after they finished each farmer's hay. The hay was then sent on the railroad.
After haying came hop picking. My sisters and I used to pick in three hop yards. There was Roberts, Hazzard and Brandis. Upon the hill no hops were grown at that time. but I do know that in the 1890s there were hops on the Bingham Champion Farm.
One day I asked my mother how she happened to meet my father. She told me she was visiting Champion cousins and my father was working as yard boss in their hop yard. They met and, in 1894, were married.
Champions had a beautiful big hop house which was a popular place used for dances, especially in the summer. After hop picking was over it was the one room school house. Those on the lower half attended school on Route 12b, while others went to school on Skyline Drive. There was one on Champion Road. One was at the top of Bogusville Hill Road. These one room school houses were for everybody. One teacher had us doing nursery rhymes. (I went a little while during nice weather.) "Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jumped over the candlestick." I thought it meant a lighted candle. What it referred to was a stick for dipping candles. The candles were dipped into hot wax and hung on the back of chairs to dry. After my sister finished eighth grade, we were ready for high school and rather than board in Clinton, my parents bought a place at 81 College Street in Clinton and we stayed there during the school year. There we had electric lights, run up and downstairs furnace, and running water. We had that place until we were out of school.
Then in 1915 changes were made. The Clinton Canning Factory was opened and people started to raise sweet corn and peas. A milk station opened in Clinton and in Deansboro. Farmers increased their dairies and added on to their barns. Gas engines and milking machines came into being.
When the war broke out in 1918, things changed again. We didn't have all those parties and dances. People tried to be more conservative. People used more maple syrup and honey because sugar was rationed. On West Hills instead of quilting parties, they organized a Red Cross group. After the boys came back from the war, brother bought a corn planter. When one farmer was adventuresome and the equipment worked, then others would follow suit. I can remember jabbing corn by hand when I was young. My father had a 1 row horse planter, but someone had to guide the horse to have the rows straight. Next we bought a two-row planter, which marked the next row. This was much easier and he hired out anywhere.
Charlie DeLand had the first car. The radiators of the first cars would boil when they were going up hill.
The first radios had ear phones. That was how I happened to hear Ed Ford talking one day to Henry Ruth. I was eavesdropping. "We're going to get down to brass tacks." Years later I learned that at country stores brass tacks were used to measure material.
In the spring it was up to the individual farmer to mow the roadside.
High school time was spent around Clinton with Ed Stanley, Ruth Jones Miller, Dora Beck, Mae Toomer McConnell. Many went to the Utica School of Commerce and then went into business. Some went to Hamilton College. Others took a six week summer course.
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