|Vol. IV NO 1.Page 2||THE ELLER FAMILY ASSOCIATION||FEBRUARY 1990|
Have your children ever asked you to tell them about "when you were a little girl (boy) like me?" Has your grand child ever said "Gramps, tell me about the olden days when you plowed with a horse." They ask because you are very important to them and they want to know about your life. They ask because parents and grandparents seem very old when you are a child. Perhaps they are studying U.S. History and wonder if you took part in what they are learning.
You may take the time to relate a story or event to one of them. As they grow older this story may become distorted far mingled with another story from another day.
The greatest gift you can give your children, grandchildren and future generations is the story of your life and times; written by you. It will be there whenever they find they want to know how you lived, and the events that shaped your life. They may be interested now, or it may be years before a young parent finds the time to read in peace and quiet. The need to know or the available time to explore your story may not come until they are middle aged.
The important thing is to get started, now - Today!. You may feel you cannot write. You Can talk. -You can write letters. Write a letter about something that happened to you; your first day in school, the day your dad tied a string around that loose tooth and pulled it out. Tell the story in your own words. Forget about grammar and punctuation. They are not important. Your own words, just as you would tell the story is important to your family. This is what makes your story special; it reflects YOU. You are writing the events of your life the way it happened.
If you want someone to polish your story, correct the commas or misspelled words, fine. Do not allow anyone to change thoughts or your way of expressing them. Remember your story will be enjoyed for what it is - Your gift of yourself to them.
Keep pencil and paper handy; in your work area, by your favorite chair, on the table by your bed. Jot down ideas and thoughts as they occur. Then when you can, take these notes and write you story. THE MAIN THING IS TO GET STARTED and write when you can.
A few rules that will prove helpful:
EARLY LIFE - the first five years
Born: date, weight, length - anything unusual at home, in hospital - city, county and state name of doctor and/or nurse reaction or comments of mother, father, brothers and sisters first walked and talked - first memories -your favorite childhood toy, game or family activity Include baby and childhood photos, a family photo, picture of pets. If available include photo of house(s) you lived in,
separate your school days into grade school, junior high, high school and higher education. Give the name and location of each school and the years you attended. Teachers names? principal? Describe that first day, the best day and the worst day. Describe your books, lunch, recess, your desk. The type of clothes worn. Your best friend(s). The subjects you like best - excelled 'in, failed in. Christmas programs, pageants or plays. School band, chorus. Graduation
4-H, scouts, the circus, fairs, box socials, movies (Saturday afternoon matinees) birthday parties.
Mothers day (gifts you made) , Decoration (memorial) Day, Fourth of July Labor Day - end of summer, back to school. Halloween, and other holidays.
Hair styles, clothing, special friends and their influence. fads, sayings or expressions, dances, movie stars, songs and music.
Your first job(s). Developing self - dreams, values, goals transportation -horse, bicycle, car, streetcars The teenage hangout - trouble I got into, early romances Be sure to give the era and the current, events of that day.
Responsibilities, jobs, on to college, into the army, navy. goals, achievements, awards, milestones
Romance, engagement, marriage. When, how and where did you meet? How long engaged? World events that might have influenced your decisions. The wedding, honeymoon trip? shivaree? first home and learning to cook or eating those first dinners.
You will want to devote some space to your spouse. Now might be a good time, or you might want to wait for an important event such as an anniversary or milepost in your life together.
What preparations did you make? layette, furniture, choosing the name(s). List your children and tell about each one. How did you do the laundry? Did Grandma come to stay? How long? Did you follow a book, doctors orders as to time schedule? Did both parents help in care of babies? Some of the things you did together as a young family. Follow through and get each child through school and off on their own life. A story on each child will bring much pride and joy to that person. What did you enjoy most about being a parent? Write about your relationships as the years went by.
Describe your most memorable vacations. Preparations, animals, mode of travel. Did everyone go? Did you visit relatives? go camping? travel abroad? Highlights and special events? Disasters? Going home.
Back to everyday life, were you happy, sad, glad to be home?
Changes through the years
STOP and THINK of the changes in our environment during your lifetime. In the home, in the schools, shopping, farm life to urban living, social life and customs, employment, entertainment, TRANSPORTATION and COMMUNICATION. Each of these topics is a story. Make a list of the changes in your first home and where you are now living. Describe your childhood home and how you lived compared to today.
These suggestions are just that - use them or not; the most important thing is to get started. This is a project that is not finished in one day. Plan to spend a few weeks or months writing whenever you can. Spend an hour or two each day. Schedule your writing time in each days activities just as you would an exercise program. It does help to make a list of incidents or a general outline before writing.
When your story is written, take it to a copy shop or printer. If you can copy it yourself, do so. If you need help, ask for it. If you can afford to have it printed you might want to have copies made for your children, grandchildren and other special people in your life. Your family might be very happy to pay for their copies if it will help you have it printed.
Printers usually do a better job with photos than you can. Black and white and the old sepia (tan) color photos copy best. Color photos do copy with a dot screen, but not as well as black and white.
This is a very condensed version of a "Write Your Life Story" class that I attended through a local community college. If you find you would like more details or suggestions, please write.
It is my hope that you will share your story with the Eller Family Association, to be placed in the "Eller Archives".
Eller Family Assoc.|
Charlotte Eller Marshall
605 S. E. Park
Corvallis, OR 97333
|"I remember lying in bed one night and thinking, All at once I realized something. We were poor. Lord! It was weeks before I could get over that."|
Chattanooga, Tennessee, 1933
- 11 -
When we moved to the Locket Gulch place in the winter of 1934 I found myself in a new school district but since the year was half over it was decided that I would finish up the year in town. The next fall I started in the fifth grade at the Oregon Trail School that was originally named Hogback. It was located about a mile from Snake River on the Oregon side. The old Oregon Trail crossed the river at the original Fort Boise site in Idaho into what is now the State of Oregon and up over a little rise (hogback) then across the school yard. The wagon tracks were leveled out and obliterated by the time I enrolled there.
Oregon Trail was a two room country school teaching or at least containing kids from the first through the eighth grades. There was one row of desks for each grade and in grades with lots of kids they installed double desks. One room was for grades one through four and the other room was for grades five through eight. Big folding doors separated the big and little kids. Study time for each subject was forty-five minutes and then fifteen recitation. Recitation time was rotated so that three grades were trying to study while the fourth talked and created confusion.
I don't know when the tradition started but when a new boy came to school all the old boys chased him during the noon hours and recesses unless it was basketball or baseball season. I was pretty lucky because the new land was being settled and the Dust Bowl victims were flocking in so I was the new kid for only a short time. The penalty for getting caught was being tossed into a pile of Russian thistles but at least you could quit running.
The school uniform for boys was bib overalls or jeans with both knees and sometimes the seat patched, shoes in winter with at least one floppy sole and a blue cotton shirt with the elbows out. The girls were generally better dressed in well worn cotton dresses, hand-me-down coats with the sleeves an inch or so short and brown rolled down cotton socks in the spring and fall or twisted up and screwed on in the winter when it was cold. Also runny noses were generally uniform through out the year.
Lunches were home made bread sandwiches with either a deviled ham or pickle relish sandwich spread. There was no fruit except maybe an apple or peach in the fall. Usually at all school Christmas programs we got an orange a bit of hard candy and a few peanuts in the shell.
Our school sports program consisted of marbles, ,basketball and baseball for the boys with jump rope, hopscotch and jacks for the girls. The outdoor basketball court was a flat spot pounded hard by bare feet with the
boundaries and free throw line scratched deep in the dirt with a stick. We didn't use the free throw line much, you just about had to bleed to get a free shot so most of the fouls were settled in favor of whoever could threaten the most and yell the loudest. Baseball was serious business. Our nine man team consisted of all the boys in the big kids room that were big enough to swing the bat. We were fierce and we were dedicated and we were good. We could and did beat all the other country schools, Owyhee, Big Bend, Wade and Cairo Junction. We had three bats one light weight and two heavies and one ball that was a little lopsided. Just like in the big leagues, a ball knocked over the fence was a homer and in our case a game stopper because the Owyhee ditch was just over the fence and we had to chase the ball and fish it out of the water.
One day the Nyssa High Freshman ball team came out to play a game - what an eye opener that was. Always when game time came we played ball. This time we were all set to go but they started warming up. They had several bats and a bunch of balls and an honest to goodness coach who wore a felt hat. We'd never seen a baseball uniform up close before and shoes with spikes were clear beyond us since about half our team were barefooted. I can't remember the score but we won by enough that they understood that it wasn't just a fluke plus we homered several of their new balls into the ditch. It surprised them a little to see our whole team throw everything to the wind and run hell bent for the ditch to fish the ball out of the water.
I only lived a mile and a half from school so on good days a couple of neighbor boys and I walked to school. We had a bus that wasn't much fun to ride. It was homemade, top heavy and mounted on a Model A Ford pickup and it didn't always make it all the way without a flat or a breakdown. A few times there was enough water in the bottom of the Owyhee ditch to freeze so we skated to school with clamp-on skates, now that was tough going because the skates didn't stay on very well and we skated mostly on our ankles. Our shoes were usually thin and limber, we'd tighten the skates until the shoe sole would buckle up and then we'd take off for a quarter mile or so 'til we lost them again or fell through a thin spot. We usually got there cold and wet but we got enough attention to make it worthwhile.
Surprisingly, discipline wasn't much of a problem for our principal, Albert, grades five through eight, or his wife, Phyllis, grades one through four, HOWEVER, Albert was called to Vale, the county seat for a meeting one day. The big kids were given assignments and told to be good. That was a pretty big order for us, you know the ones who were more inclined to look at it as a day off.' We didn't tumble to the fact that Phyllis was watching us through a crack in the big folding door until late in the day. She didn't miss
a thing, she had a photographic memory and she told all. Albert returned just before school was out for the day, took the report from Phyllis the squealer, he walked to his desk and took out a big wooden paddle that he kept there. Tension was beginning to mount. He walked into the cloak room and closed the door for a moment. It was quiet in the room, he came out and called the first boy in the eighth grade row. He closed the cloak room door and it was quiet again but suddenly there were two loud whacks and an ear splitting scream, he opened the door dropped a large splinter that had broken from the paddle and called the next eighth grader. One by one two whacks a scream and we never saw the victim again. Since I was about two thirds of the way down in the fifth grade row I was in pretty much of a state by the time my turn came but I figured I could scream as loud as any so went to take my medicine. I stepped into the cloak room and was surprised to see the first eighth grader still there with Albert ' . They instructed me with grim expressions to bend over and grab my ankles. Suddenly there were two whacks and a scream that was almost but not quite mine. Albert had been whacking the wall and the eighth grader had been screaming.
John S. Marshall
|(This is one of the short stories included in the 166 page booklet -with many pictures- written by my husband. I think it is a good illustration of writing many short stories and using them to form your life story. It is a story of life in a very small rural school during the 1930's. This school was called "The Oregon Trail School" located in Malheur County, Oregon. The building still stands and is used for a Grange Hall and many community activities. CEM)|
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|Feb 1990 cover photo|
C. E. (Crist) Eller and Rebecca (Becky) Eller with children: O. D. (Orin), Henry, Sadie, and Gertrude...in order of age.
"Crist" Eller was a descendant of Jacob and Magdalena Eller. (See Vol. II no. 2, The Eller Chronicles, May 1988 pp. 35-43)
For more on the "Crist" Eller family see pp. 15-34 of this issue.
(right here, here on line, [ADE])
Cover for The Sugar Loaf Kids booklet
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Raymond & Paul
(peach packing in barn)
Tub used many ways
John, age 5
Pictures for The Sugar Loaf Kids booklet
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INTRODUCTION Rebecca Henry Eller and Christian Emory Eller were married and began their life together at Grandpa John and Grandma Hannah Eller's house. In this same house all ten of their children were born. Four of the children were married, and three of them had children of their owns when Lowell, the youngest child was born. There were six boys and four girls who grew up on the Eller Sugar Loaf Farm. As one could imagine, there were many stories that could be told about the "Eller Kids". Here, it is the family's desire to preserve some of those tales. CRIST AND BECKY Christian Emory Eller, better known as Crist, went to Bridgewater College for one term and became a certified school teacher. He was hired to teach at a one-room school called Grisso Gate. One of his students was a very attractive young lady who was in the seventh grade. She was a good student-especially in spelling and reading and had beautiful handwriting. When Rebecca (Becky) was nearly eighteen, Crist decided to make some of his interests in her known. So he courted her. And when she was nineteen, and he twenty-seven, they decided to get married. In December of the year 1896, they were married at John Thomas and Jane Grisso Henry's home. This was located just two miles off the Back Creek and Bent Mountain Road where a Poage Mill Post Office and Mill were located. After the marriage they began their home five miles south of Salem, Virginia at the foot of Sugar Loaf Mountain, in the home of John W. and Hannah Eller. Here all of their ten children were born. These children were:
THE SUGAR LOAF KIDS
JACOB & MAGDALENA ELLER
Rebecca Henry Eller and Christian Emory Eller were married and began their life together at Grandpa John and Grandma Hannah Eller's house. In this same house all ten of their children were born. Four of the children were married, and three of them had children of their owns when Lowell, the youngest child was born. There were six boys and four girls who grew up on the Eller Sugar Loaf Farm. As one could imagine, there were many stories that could be told about the "Eller Kids".
Here, it is the family's desire to preserve some of those tales.
CRIST AND BECKY
Christian Emory Eller, better known as Crist, went to Bridgewater College for one term and became a certified school teacher. He was hired to teach at a one-room school called Grisso Gate. One of his students was a very attractive young lady who was in the seventh grade. She was a good student-especially in spelling and reading and had beautiful handwriting. When Rebecca (Becky) was nearly eighteen, Crist decided to make some of his interests in her known. So he courted her. And when she was nineteen, and he twenty-seven, they decided to get married.
In December of the year 1896, they were married at John Thomas and Jane Grisso Henry's home. This was located just two miles off the Back Creek and Bent Mountain Road where a Poage Mill Post Office and Mill were located.
After the marriage they began their home five miles south of Salem, Virginia at the foot of Sugar Loaf Mountain, in the home of John W. and Hannah Eller. Here all of their ten children were born. These children were:
Orien--Born Nov., 1898--Died Mar., 1985 |
Henry--Born April* 1900--
Sadie--Born Oct., 1902--Died Oct., 1968
Gertrude--Born Oct., 1904--Died March, 1926
Ruby --- Born Feb., 1906--
Edna --- Born Aug., 1908--
Raymon--Born Mar., 1910--
Paul --- Born Mar., 1914--
John --- Born Sept., 1915--
Lowell--Born Sept., 1926--
Mama Becky (Rebecca) lived until Dec 26 of 1944, and Papa Crist until May 13, 1948.
CHILDREN IN THE WOODS
If the woods above the tomato factory could talk, it would reveal how the Eller Kids spent many happy hours playing among the stumps, trees, bushes and it's many paths. In the early spring, the very thought of looking for arbutus (hidden under the soggy leaves) to inhale the perfume and catch a glimpse of those beautiful white and pink flowers was very exciting. Next came the sourwood trees with their "lily of the valley" blossoms. Following close behind came the large purple blossoms of the rhododendron with its shining green leaves. Mountain laural (we called it ivy) was scattered here and there, and a few yellow or orange azalias (honeysuckle) were tucked in for a brighter splash of color. It truly was a beautiful time of year, and we all knew that God put it there for us to enjoy and protect.
When warmer weather arrived. we swung in the tree tops -jumping from one, tree to another like monkeys. It's a real wonder someone didn't get killed. In late summer, one could find huckleberries to eat. Sometimes we would have some for the table to eat with sugar and cream.
Often moss playhouses were built around an old stump. The rooms were moss-covered. If bare places appeared, we would find new moss to replace them. Nothing was better and richer than a green velvet carpets a few tin cans, and some old spoons (taken from the kitchen at home) to be used in our moss-floored kitchen in the woods.
Sometimes we would find an old pine stump which made the best fire-starters for the stoves in the kitchen and dining
room at home. Papa was always happy to have a basket of pine sticks ready to start fires.
The story of the woods would not be complete unless we talk about the red clay bank behind the canning factory. When the rains came, or water was carried from the creek up to the top of the banks the clay became as slick as glass. Many of us wore out our bloomers or pants (as well as did some of the nieces and nephews) by sliding down that bank. What fun it was to climb to the tops of the banks sit down on a shovel, and sail down the hill to the creek--sometimes landing out in the middle of the creek.
On one side of the bank stood a huge chestnut tree--until the chestnut blight struck it, and it died. It was then cut down, which left a big stump. Orien and Curgie shaver ( a hired man) built a pond just below the big stump for the Blacks to have for a baptizing. The Eller Kids stood across the pond from the stump, in our own gardens and watched the baptizing. We wondered why they immersed their people backwards. We sought the answers from our parents. Aunt Ellen sat on the stump above the pond. She shouted when one person was baptized. Then she fell off the stump unharmed.
Edna & Ruby
Sadie @ 16yrs
Oren & Henry
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We always had cats around, and sometimes there were more than we needed. Two little Eller girls thought they would dispose of some newborn kittens. The little kittens (four or five of them) were put in a gunny sack and taken a mile or so down toward the Black's Church, and left there to die. Several days latter, it was time to go pick blackberries. And what do you supposed happened! As we picked berries, we kept hearing a strange sound in the field. We finally discovered that the kittens were still alive, and were crying. You can imagine the surprise of those two young ladies! That crying was never forgotten, and no more kittens were disposed of in that manner.
Cousin Elmer Jamison and Willie came to help when we butchered the hogs. our men had boiling water (in a big pan)ready when the time came to kill (by shooting) and hang up the hogs for cutting. After killing them, the pigs, one at a time, were put into the boiling water to loosen the hair for scraping. Then they were hung up. Willie did most of the shooting, and stayed around until the hogs were all hung.
One time, when Raymon was about 14, Cousin Elmer said, "Raymon, it is about time you learn to shoot the hogs."
Raymon did learns but almost fainted when the first hog fell down.
It was always a joy to have Cousin Elmer around for the butchering. . He knew how to do everything. And he and Papa were good teachers to instruct us about the art of trimmings cutting, weighing and packaging. We made puddings rendered lards and cured hams the old-fashioned way--Virginia sugar-cured.
THE BARN BURNS
A spring-wagon of apples, ready for the Roanoke Market, was placed under the overhang on the south side of the old log barn. It was November, and the nights were quite cold. A cover had been placed over the apples. And a bit of straw had been put under the seat to help keep the feet warm while traveling the six miles to market the next morning.
Papa got up early and hitched up the horse. He put the lantern in the wagon. One straw got into the hole of the cracked lantern globe. In seconds, the whole straw pile was blazing. Flames leaped up to the floor of the barn which was full of hay and straw, There was no way to stop the fire ' since it was in the hay mow. Papa called for helps and the hired man came running. But they could only get the cattle and horses out of the barn.
Mama got us all up, and I remember Raymon and I carrying cups of water from a tub of water and pouring it on the side of the house. The apples rolled down the hill from the corn crib when the men turned the wagon over in order to save the crib.
Mama took us up on the hill behind the house to watch the burning. We all got our hair singed because the heat was so intense.
men sat on wood blocks as the burning continued and discussed how they could help. You see, there would be no building to house the animals. And there would be only a small amount of corn and hay for feed.
A new barn was built. We kids made tunnels through the straw. Before Easter, we hid eggs in a new corn planter that was put in the barn. Some of us had collected eggs for a month (only a few eggs at a time). No one knew, until the hunting day camel that we had hidden eleven dozen eggs. our Mother had wondered why there had been so few eggs for sale. The sale of those eggs brought in the money that was used to feed and clothe us children.
PAPA LOSES HIS BEARD
Long years ago, Papa began to lose his skin pigment. It was first seen on his hands, then arms, and then it began on his face. At that time, he had a black beard and black hair. His beard began to have white spots. The family doctor insisted that he shave off his beard. The medical profession did not know the cause of the pigment loss.
I remember that Mama got us children together and told us that our Papa would come home with no beard. We were instructed that when he came home, we were not to stare at him. As it happened, when our buggy did drive up to the house, no one knew who the man was who got out. We couldn't understand why this man was in our buggy. Well, it was our Papa all right!
OUR BLACK NEIGHBORS AND FRIENDS
We grew up with Black people living around us. Father and Mother taught us that the "black" was only the color of the skin,, and we were all alike. Let's talk about Uncle Jack, as we called him, and his wife, Sarah. They often worked for us. Aunt Sarah did the family washing on a scrub board.
once a naughty boy and girl wanted to have some fun. So they stuck their heads around the corner, where Aunt Sarah was washing, and called out, "Black Nigger!"
Aunt Sarah didn't say a word. But our Mama heard what was going on and approached those two.
"Don't you know Aunt Sarah is our friend?" she said. "Never again do you call her that name."'
Then Mama used a little switch on those little white legs. I doubt if those two youngsters ever again called a Black, a "Nigger."
Aunt Ellen and Uncle Pat lived on the south side of Sugar Loaf in a one-room log cabin. There was an open fireplace on one end of the room. Aunt Ellen cooked and baked on the fire hearth. She had two hanging iron kettles-one for cooking, and one for heating water.
One time, my father (who was a minister) 'and I went to visit our neighbors. Aunt Ellen was mixing up corn dough which was almost ready to go into her oven (the hot ashes). She brushed aside the hot ashes and poured the batter onto several different spots on the hot hearth. Then she carefully covered the batter with the ashes that she had brushed aside. In a few minutes,, she uncovered the "hones" of cornbread, and brushed the ashes off. Then she slit each piece and put a slice of freshly-churned butter on it. Now! I tell you, that was good eating! She offered us each a glass of buttermilk to go with the corn pones. But we both declined, since neither of us liked that kind of milk. Too bad!
Topsy was Aunt Ellen's granddaughter who lived in New York City. She was so pretty, with her white straw hat, her pretty dresses and red hair ribbons. we never had anything so fine.
We Eller girls were great friends with Topsy. We looked f rd to her summer visits in order to make mud pies with her, or to play in the woods together.
Back in those days, the Blacks and the Whites had their separate schools. The children often met at the Forks (as we called the coming together of the roads). One road was the Jamison Road, where the-blacks traveled. The other was the Sugar Loaf Road, where most of the Whites traveled (the ones that went south from the school).
There had been some name calling for some time on both sides.
"White Trash!" called the black boys.
"Black Niggers," yelled the white boys.
One afternoon, there was much yelling. And then a few rocks were tossed in for good measure. Several rocks hit Robber, one of the black boys. The older Eller boy ran home to tell Papa. But the younger one stayed until the fight was over. Our parents used some rather strong discipline on the Eller boys at the time of that incident.
Later on, Robert became a good friend of the Eller boys. He helped on our farm--picking peaches and apples. He also was, many times, a guest at our family dinner table.
TRUNDLE BEDS AND STRAW TICKS
Papa Crist and Mama Becky had a trundle bed under their own bed for their little tots. As the youngsters grew older, they were moved upstairs to sleep in the rooms with the older children. The upstairs was not heated in winter, and it was cold. But it was hot in the summer time--especially when the humidity was high. sleeping on top of those straw ticks (mattresses) is undesirable. You must try one yourself in order to know.
After the summer wheat was harvested the "ticks" were opened, emptied, and washed. Then they were refilled with new straw. It was a marvelous experience to crawl up on those thick ticks and nestle down in, and smell the fresh new straw.
SEWING AND QUILTING
All the girls in our family were well instructed in sewing and quilting. Mother was a good teacher. She gave instructions in cutting and piecing together quilt blocks. By the time each young lady was sixteen years old, she was the owner of a fine new quilt which she had pieced together herself, and had helped to quilt.
The sewing machine became very busy as each one learned the art of sewing. In those days, the girls made all of their clothing--even the underwear. Once, one of the younger girls was working on-a pair of bloomers. She sewed them up. But it was impossible to get into them since she had-sewed the wrong seams together. One of the older girls giggled about it. But Mama was soon to the rescue in two ways--to save the bloomers, and to teach that we did not laugh at another's mistakes.
Speaking of sewing--Mamma's wedding dress was a beautiful white wool one with tiny tucks at the cuffs, and tucks on the front of the blouse. Latter, she cut up that dress, and made a little coat for her son, John.
BREAD MAKING AND FARM CHORES
The girls learned to set yeast for bread-making--then how to mix and how much to knead the dough before putting it in a pan to rise. Nothing was better than coming home from school to find four loaves of warm bread just waiting for us. The best part was slicing off a pieces and covering it with fresh butter and jam!
The boys learned to take care of the stock, and to do field or orchard work. Orien and Henry learned to shoe the horses at the blacksmith shop. I guess we all learned how to run the bellows there. And, no doubt, each one tried putting his tongue on the end of the steel anvil in the winter time. This was indeed very painful, since it took the skin off one's tongue.
GERTRUDE DIES IN 1927
Gertrude was married to Ernest Leveler, and they lived in Pittsburgh,, Pennsylvania. She was pregnant,, and had been having problems with her pregnancy and had to be hospitalized. She was scheduled for release in a few days.
Ruby was a junior at Daleville Academy. Orien, Henry, and Sadie were married and had families of their own. The other five children lived at home. Lowell was only six months old at the time.
Our Church district was in the midst of a Spiritual Growth Conferences which was being held at Daleville. Papa and Edna went to the Conference. Also, Aunt Nannie Henry, from Poges Mills was attending the meeting.
Papa received the call that Gertrude had suddenly died. So he took Ruby out of school, and we went home. We didn't even think about Aunt Nannie's being there until we were nearly home.
It was a wet cold month with mud everywhere. Papa called Mr. Bush Flory in Roanoke to see if he could get overshoes. Mr. Flory met Orien on Sunday afternoon and selected overshoes for all of us at home.
Boards were laid from the road up to the cemetery for us (along with our neighbors and friends) to walk on. One wonders how the men ever dug the grave in all that rain. It was a sad time for us all.
All the boys were involved in catching rabbits for the table or for market. One of the tomboy girls also made the trap-runs. It was necessary to learn how to handle the rabbit after it was caught, how to reset the trap, and how to dress the rabbit for market. The traps had to be checked every day. If school was in session, the rabbits had to be dressed before going to school.
Most of the rabbits were caught near the damson orchard-up the hill behind the house. We found out that if we could find a path where small animals traveled, that was a good place to set a trap--or near a braiar patch.
The first six Eller Kids went to a one-room school--up on the hill from Moss Sink's house. Mr. Sink lived beside the Barnhart Creek and had a good spring. Water for the school came from his spring.
The schools one room had five windows on each side. There was an aisle at each wall, and then one at the center of the building. In front of the teacher's table were two long benches where the children came for their recitations. At the back of the room, the coats hung on one side. On the other side, there was a bench where the lunch boxes and the water bucket sat. The bucket had a long handle dipper, but that was not to drink from. Every child had his own squash or collapsible cup for drinking.
The larger desks were in the back of the room and graduated down to the first graders, who were seated up next to the teacher's table. The boys sat on one sides while the girls sat on the other side.
It was really great to have the privilege of going to the spring for water. As kids do things, sometimes there was some playing along the path.
Once, one of the big boys (who went to the blackboard during one of his lessons) slipped a piece of chalk to a little second grader (who was standing in the corner behind the school library for having whispered). She had a really good time drawing faces and animals. And the teacher never said a word about it. I guess the teacher was glad to have the little girl be quiet for awhile.
One day, the older school children were having a "Spelling BO's and they were standing at the back of the room. One of the girls, whose name was Goldie (and she did have golden curls), began to dry. Then she wet her pants, and the "liquid" ran down on the floor. She also missed the spelling of the word when it came her turn.
The girls made playhouses (which lasted from year to year) in the nearby woods, while the boys played ball or shot marbles. We did have rope swings hanging from several trees. And we played many games.
Once in awhile the snow was too deep to walk to school. Then Orien or Henry would hitch up the horses to a sled and drive us to school. one time, when we started out for school on the sled, it was cold and icy. Orien couldn't hold the horses because the sled slid onto their heels. We were going too fast to make a sharp turn, and Ruby and Edna were thrown out (but were not hurt). Ruby cried all day at school.
When we walked to school during a rainy spells the water got too high for us kids to cross the cove between our farm and Mr. Nienkie's farm. Old Minnie, our old red mare, would be bridled up, and two or three of us would ride to school on her back. Then we would put the reins over her necks and she would go home by herself. When she got there, she would whinny for the hired man to open the gate. Ben and Curgy Shaver, were big strong men who helped on the farm. Once a 6 ft. black snake was found in the tenant house where Ben and his family lived. Now, that was exciting!
A new brick school was built across the road from the Old Order Church and the Ninkie farm. There were large oak trees of several different kinds all around the building. This school had two rooms with a wood stove in each room, and a pantry at the back for wood storage A long room across the front was for coats and lunch buckets. And, of course, there were two outhouses out back--one for the boys, and the other for the girls.
In the fall, acorns would cover the ground. The first year that John went to schools Sadie was married on the second day of school. All of us were at home for the wedding, when someone at school started throwing acorns. A new law was passed that anyone throwing acorns would get the switch. The third day of schools before John even got in the school yard, he was throwing acorns--but not at any one persons However, someone ran to tell the teacher, and John "got it." We had a ruling at home that if you got a whipping at school, you would get another one at home. This time, John did not get a spanking at home.
Once, someone shot an arrow as Gertrude came around a corner at recess time, and knocked her front tooth out. Gertrude always had a false tooth after that.
Remember those awful county examinations that one had to pass to go on to high schooll!!!
We had county competition in athletics and in our studies.
SUMMER AT THE GRANDPARENTS
We all had our turn sometime at Grandma's house (to stay a day or a week). Some got homesick before the buggy or car even got started home. Some of us loved to play down at the pond (where ice was cut for the ice house in winter), where we enjoyed "jigging" for frogs in the summertime.
We never had an ice house at our farm. During the coldest part of the winter, Grandpa cut big blocks of ice from his pond, and stored them in his ice house. On the floor, ten feet down in the earth, a thick layer of leaves was laid down. The ice blocks were put on top of them. Then several feet (perhaps four to six feet) of leaves were put on top. The ice could be used to cool milk and butter, or to make ice cream, which was often made.
THE FIRST CHRISTMAS TREE
In the early Fall, some of us went to the side of the cow pasture where many pine trees were allowed to grow. We hunted a long time for a perfect tree. Then we marked it by tying a rag on it. When Christmas was nears we knew where the tree was, but we never could find it. We finally got another one. sawed down, and carried it to the house. We put the tree in a five-gallon bucket, and filled the bucket with rocks and sand. Mama bought us a ten-foot red velvet rope to use with the strings of popcorn and wallpaper chains we had made,, and two shiny ornaments. It was a beautiful trill! We also decorated the living room with mistletoe and running spruce.
GOING TO AUNT LUCY'S
It was during a Christmas holiday that Mama and Papa decided to go to visit his sister, Lucy, and Uncle Joe Brubaker. It was a cold, crisp, gray morning when we left Sugar Loaf for the seven-mile ride. Mama put some bricks in the oven to heat while she was baking those good biscuits for breakfast. When we were all ready, she wrapped the bricks to help keep us warm while traveling. You see, we went in the family's black surrey. Riding in it was not as warm as riding in our heated cars today. Ruby and Edna were tucked in the back seat with blankets and a brick, while Raymon, and Paul were riding in the front seat with our parents.
When we arrived, the table was ready for Us with chicken and gravy, and a peach pie which Papa was so fond of. Cousin Leah was not very well. But she was helping with the meal. She was the young bride of Charlie Montgomery. Joe Jr. was still at homes and he delighted in teasing us girls.
After dinner, Ruby and Edna went out the path to the "John." They were so delighted with the Sears Catalogue that was in the "John", that they stayed out there until it was time to go home. Those beautiful dolls and their pretty dresses (pictured in the catalogue) were so interesting to look at that the girls forgot to get back into the house.
CHRISTMAS AT GRANDPA HENRY'S
Christmas at Grandpa (John Thomas Henry) and Grandma (Jane Grisso) Henry's house was full of excitement. There must have been seven of us by then, because all of us could not ride in the surrey.' So some of us went in the buggy,, which Mama drove. Raymon and Edna rode in 'the back box--probably because they were small, but not too small to ride there.
Grandpa always had an apple bin beside the big wood house. He and his boys used poles for the sides, and lined it with a heavy layer of leaves. Then they would pour 100-200 bushels of apples into the bin, and then cover it with leaves and brush to hold the leaves in place. Usually, a basket of golden pippins or red winesaps was ready for us. But one time, the basket was empty. What fun it was to go out to that pile and stick your hand through a layer of snow and ices and then under the soggy leaves, and pull out those apples to fill the baskets.
After dinner# we sat around the stove to hear the stories told by Grandpa or his boys, Walter and Howard, while we slowly pealed apples and listened. Sometimes, we kids went to the front hall to slide down the banisters or try to play the pump organ. What fun!!
One Christmas, when we were older, Raymon and Paul decided they would walk to Grandpa's. Well, they "sorta" got lost, and arrived long after dinner time. We all rode home together.
LIVING IN THE PEACH ORCHARD
It's time to talk "Peaches"--way back to when a peach orchard was planted on the south side of Sugar Loaf Mountain. The orchard was cleared, not too far from the top of the mountain.
'Talk about snowstorms! Sometimes we had some real good ones! In Virginia, to get snowed in was real. But it was not like the blizzards out West (where the wind blew and howled worse than wolves). In Virginia, usually the snow was quite wets and it piled up on fence posts. It crowned the trees, and made everything into a giant fairyland. Sugar Loaf would be frosted with marshmallow frosting, and the flat places would be covered with pure white blankets. Sometimes, we had as much as 30-3611 of snow. But rarely was the temperature below fifteen or twenty.
During Christmas week one year, Grandma Jane Henry and Aunt Nannie gave us some of their old coats to take home. Wouldn't you know it! In January or February, we had a real snowstorm. The fence posts in the front yard were all covered up with 36" of snow. Papa and the big boys managed to make a path to the barn to care for the livestock and to milk the cows: The younger kids decided to tunnel under the snow--from the front porch to the front yard gate. It took us all day to make that tunnel. Then we made another one to form a "Y" to the south corner porch. We had lots of fun crawling through those tunnels on our "fours." A few days latter, we had a freezing rain on top of that snow. That made about an inch of ice. We couldn't go to school for a few more days. We practically wore out those old coats--and our geography books as well. Those geography books were great to sit on and slide down the hills. Our homemade sleds were in good use, too. We would manage to climb the hills. Then we would race (sliding down the hills between the apple trees), and finally slide on down to the creek.
In late Falls the frost came and cracked open the chestnut burs. The chestnut trees grew thirty to forty feet high. Unless they were crowded by other trees, their spread could be thirty feet wide. We often found chestnuts on the ground when we would go to the pasture to bring the cows home for milking. When it was frosty, our little bare feet would nearly freeze off. For a long time, we had a large chestnut tree out in the middle of a fields Buts remembering those nuts, they did not taste as good as the ones which grew on Sugar Loaf Mountain.
We learned quite young that one did not eat chestnuts which were not fully ripe, or a terrible belly ache would result. Some of us well remember such an experience
We sometimes gathered a couple of bushels of nuts,, which must be baked or boiled to preserve them for winter use. Roasted chestnuts and popcorn were often a Sunday evening snack.
Somewhere in the 1930s, a blight struck the chestnut trees in the eastern U. S., and killed most of them. Whole sides of mountains became filled with dead trees, and there were no more chestnuts. Since then, a few trees have been developed to withstand the blight.
Those little peach switches were planted in straight rows around the mountain. The peaches grown on the mountain were beautiful in color. One would guess that the sun and sugar from the mountain, together with tender-loving care by the Eller Bunch, was the real reason for those golden peaches tasting so delicious.
Once, a wagon full of lovely, sweet-smelling peaches was loaded for market in a spring wagon. Old Nancy was hitched to the wagon. Now, Nancy was unpredictable in her behavior. Papa Crist got up on the spring wagon seat and proceeded cautiously down the mountain road. When Papa and Nancy got nearly to the bottom of the hill, the wagon got too close to old Nancy's legs. She gave a lunges and started to run. Runaway! Yes!
Papa jumped off the wagon yelling, "Whoa, Nancy!"
But she kept going faster and faster, until she turned the wagon over--which broke her loose. She didn't stop running until she got home to the barn. We middle kids were scarred, and got up on the front porch to watch her race by. Some of the peaches were saved. But a lot of them were smashed.
A second orchard was planted on the north side of the barn, and around the tenant house. When the trees were in bloom, it was a beautiful sight!
Whoever heard of worming peach trees? That was exactly what was done. At first, it was necessary to dig around the trees, and remove the worms with a knife. Later on, they "gassed" the trees.
When most of us were grown up, or in our teens, we planted twenty acres of peaches down near the Colored's Church (this was where the kittens had starved). There, we also planted ten acres of red delicious and golden delicious apples. It was necessary to build a packing house for sorting, packing, and marketing the fruit.
We girls learned to ring the basket faces, which was necessary for marketing. Some of the older Eller Kids were married by this time, or they were in college. But each summers one or two of the married ones returned home to help with the busy rush of picking and selling. The boys worked in the orchards as foremen. And the girls took turns cooking for the family and many of the hired help. It took bushels of green beans, many loaves of "light" bread with pork,, potatoes, corn-on-the-cob, and other garden vegetables to feed the group.
One summers Papa sold the crop of peaches to the Kroger Chain Grocery Store. One Monday, the peaches were too soft at the-seeds for shipping. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday had been wet, hot, and humid. Mr. Kroger made the suggestion of advertising on the radio--"Peaches for $1.00 per bushel." This was done, and trucks came. Some of the people put the peaches in baskets, while others just poured them on the floor of their trucks. We never knew how they came out. But we could guess!!
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(I think there is a page missing here, I had two page 29s and no 30 in my copy. If anyone could send me a copy of the missing text, I would appreciate it.[ADE])
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Paul was very frightened by the flash, and by the destruction which he saw. The cows bad previously passed by the tree, and were on the path to the main road. They were not harmed. Neither was Paul. But he was "scared-to-death."
We all learned to milk the Jerseys in the stalls, or out in the barn lot. Some of us also learned how to squirt milk into each other's mouths--or into the mouths of the cats.
Most of the time, the cattle were gentle. Occasionally, we would have one who delighted in kicking over the bucket-or even getting her foot into it.
The milk was strained into gallon crocks. Then it was
covered and was set aside to sour. The rich cream was ski off. When enough cream was collected the churning began. We first had an up-and-down churn. Then we had a churn with a wheel called -'Daisy."
. Our cows were all named by the Jersey Association. Sometimes, we didn't like the name they gave. But that was that cow's name anyway.
In the summertime, we often carried the soft butter a half mile to a cool mountain spring so that it could be cooled and then worked (remove any milk). Then the butter was printed into one-pound prints. We did not have electricity for refrigeration. After the prints became quite firms they were each wrapped in waxed paper and placed in a tin bucket with a tight lid. The bucket was left in the spring until market time--usually one or two, days.
Blackberry time was an important event at our house every June. Since our family was rather large, every-child could help to earn money for church camp and a few clothes by picking berries. We also picked those lush blackberries for canning for the following winter.
It took thirty-two quart boxes to fill a crate. So you can see, there was a lot of berry picking. sometimes, there would be three or four of those crates to take to market. There were also dewberries in the woods. They had to be kept separate from the blackberries. We often needed to walk a mile or so to find the blackberries--and then a mile in another direction to have enough to take to the Roanoke Market. They were sold by the quart most of the time--unless some grocery store keeper took A whole crate at once.
We picked strawberries for Market. But we did not receive that money unless it was in needed clothes or some food staples. However, we did get to go to a neighbor's to pick. And then we would pick from 6:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. We were paid one and one-half cents to two cents per quart basket. The highest number of quarts picked in one day was 124, which amounted to $1.86 for that day.
THE BIG HAIL STORM
One hot summer Sunday evenings dark clouds began to rise over the mountains to the East. The stock was quickly taken care of, and we gathered in the house. Soon the storm would be upon us with its lightning, thunder, and wind.
Gertrude had a beau visiting her. He had come to call in
a new buggy which was pulled by a beautiful black horse. The horse and buggy were under cover for protection from the approaching storm. The storm broke in all its fury with hails lightning and thunder. It was black as nights except for the lightning flashes, and a lamp on the table. We Kids were scarred, and Mother put us to work mopping up water which was running down the walls in the dining room.
When the storm was over, the English walnuts and the Napolean cherry tree were broken off. Many other trees were uprooted and twisted. Earnest, Gertrude's beau, started for home in his buggy, but soon returned because of the downed trees. However, he was determined to go home. So he took Papa's lantern and walked home. The creek had risen to fording stage. It never got that high again.
THOSE WIMMER COUSINS
Aunt Lizzie often came to visit with her children. Wilbur was the oldest, and was a trouble-maker. We were always getting into trouble when he was around. He made Edna so mad, when they were playing in the empty quilt box, that she bit his "stub" fingers. Those-fingers had been previously blown off with dynamite caps.
We cousins climbed cherry trees at cherry-picking time. once we painted our faces, legs and arms with "Black Heart" cherry juice. We had been playing Indian and thought we were very beautiful--that is, until we went to the house where we all got the switch. How we ever got that purple stuff off is still a mystery!
We Kids often made ponds in the creek. But one particular pond that we made was special. All morning we worked on that pond. The older women were making Communion Bread in the house, while we Kids played in the pond. After dinner, we got Papa's straight razor and went back to the pond. First we shaved our legs. Then we appointed a preacher, who was Raymon. We sang the proper songs, and he preached. When he gave the "invitation", we all went forward. Wilbur baptized Raymon. Then Raymon, in turn, baptized the rest of us.
All the boys, and some of the girls, learned early to be good stilt walkers. When the younger children began to grow up, Orien and Henry made stilts, and taught the younger ones how to walk. We often had stilt races.
The Youngest Kid, Lowell, was the best "white washer" ever produced. He whitewashed every tree trunk in the yard. He became an excellent housekeeper, and learned to cook. When all the other children were married or away from home, Lowell became a real blessing to our parents. He was their firsthand man. He was a good gardener, which became evident when he had his own home. Lowell is, and was the pride and joy of his youngest sister. it was she who washed and fed him as a baby. She cut his curly hair, bound up his wounds, played ball with him, and they together hiked in the woods looking for worms and the beauties of nature.
One often heard Lowell's tenor voice while he was outside workings or was taking a tub bath. Dad caught him shaving when he was about twelve years old. Dad was a wise father. So he purchased Lowell a safety razor.
There were many funerals at our house. We Kids would take turns preaching and leading the singing for the funerals of the birds, cats, and chickens. Once we buried two dolls. A thunderstorm came up very quickly, and we forgot all about the dolls. It rained for a week. When we did look for the dolls, we couldn't find them (we never did find them). sometimes, we used onions to help make us cry.
One of the first joys of Spring was to go barefoot. When the tin roof became warms we often walked on it in order to warm our feet and to hear the tin crackle.
In Summer, out behind the house, there was much splashing and washing going on in the two galvanized tubs. It was so much fun to fill those tubs, let the sun warm the water, and then soak and wash our dirty little bodies.
We seldom had church services on Sunday evenings. But we had a worship time at home. We all had part in the service. We sang songs, recited scripture, read scripture, and then had sentence prayers. The older children began first. By-'-. the time it got down to the younger ones, everything had been said. After the worship time, we often popped corn and had cocoa for a night snack.
Once, when Henry and End were walking home from church, the sky was brilliant with millions of stars. As the two walked along, thousands of stars began shooting, and seemed to be falling to the earth. It must have been a meteor shower.
Five of the Eller boys were licensed and installed as ministers in our home church. This was the Oak Grove Church of the Brethren, Salem, Virginia. Three of the five graduated from Bethany Seminary in Chicago, and served as pastors. All of the ten children have been faithful to the church. They feel that participation in church activities is their first priority in life.
A TRIBUTE TO MOTHER
Rebecca Martha was born Dec. 12, 1877 to John Thomas and Jane Grisso Henry. (She died Dec. 26, 1944.) She married Christian Emery Eller on Sept. 2, 1897. She became the mother of ten (four girls and six boys) children. Her deepest desire was to teach her children how to love, and how to forgive. She often read to-us fro the Bibles the Missionary Visitor, and later the Messenger. It was important to love our neighbors--both Black and White. She always helped us to keep Jesus as our guide.
Mother was faithful to the church and to her family. She was rather quiet, but spoke when it was necessary. She carried her duties as a preacher's wife well. Vocal music was always an important part of our family life. Mother's voice was alto, and she was often heard singing around the house or in the garden.
Mother's education was limited. But she was an excellent reader and speller. She wanted all of her children to have a college education. She felt that a good education would be helpful for making a living or doing church work. She worked hard, and encouraged all to achieve excellence.
Mother was a good seamstress and taught all of us how to use the sewing machine. She also taught us to iron shirts, sew on buttons, shine shoes, and clean house. Several of us learned to cut hair.
Mother Rebecca was the best Sugar Loaf Mother ever!
A TRIBUTE TO PAPA
Christian Emory Eller was born Jan. 10, 1870, and died May 13, 1948. He was the son of John W. Eller, grandson of Abraham, and great grandson of Jacob Eller (1790s).
Papa was stern, but kind and gentle. He enjoyed fun and play. He was a good manager--very honest and caring. His married life was filled with church duties--both at the home church and in our church districts He had ten children. His desire was to have all of his children become well-educated, be interested in: the church, and marry well. Papa loved music, and held many singing schools during his younger years. In those days, church music was written in shaped notes.
Papa was a minister for years--all of which were in the "free ministry" except for the last years. He helped to build two Oak Grove Church houses, and one parsonage. He belonged to Sugar Loaf Mountain all right, as well as to his family.
******signature of Edna Eller Snavely ******
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