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Benton County, Iowa ~ Biography and Family Information

Everett Lee Cress

Everett Lee Cress, the oldest son of John Ameriah and Minerva Mae (Andrews)
Cress, was born Feb 26, 1903 on a forty acre farm seven miles south of Center
Point and two miles north of Toddville, on the Monroe and Washington Township
line in Linn County Iowa.  There were four children in his family, a younger
sister Bertha Fern (born February  28, 1907) and two younger brothers, Forrest
Earl (born February 16, 1909) and Lloyd Allen (born Aug 22 1913).

Everett went to school in a country school where one teacher taught children
between the ages of five and twenty-one.  The school houses were heated by wood
stoves and it was the responsibility of the teacher to get the fire burning in
the morning before the students came for the days classes, although the
children had to bring the wood inside the day before.  Generally there were
only two  town pupil’s in a grade and all the grades were located in one room.

The seventh grade always seemed to be the largest of the grades and the
subjects taught were not as many as there are today.  The three basic R's
(Readin'. Ritin' and Rithmatic') were strongly emphasized along with history,
geography, physics, and grammar (modern English).  The teacher had the treat of
preparing the assignments and not getting them out of a packet system or
computer like they do now.

The children did not need thirteen years schooling to receive their diploma.
In fact very few students ever graduated and fewer ever advanced to college in
the rural farm area.  This was mainly because when they were old enough the
children had to quite school to help at home with farm work or would have to
get a job to help with some of the financing.  The girls many times quit to
either help at home or to marry and start housekeeping for their own family.
After completing the eight grade the girls could take one year of college
(located in Cedar Falls, Iowa) and this entitled them the right to teach school.

Days were started at 9'Oclock in the morning and continued until 4 O'clock in
the afternoon.  The noon meal was always carried in a tin lunch box bucket,
sack or sometimes in a shoe box, as there was no hot lunch program.  This meal
usually consisted of a sandwich, fruit, cookies or cake and once in a while a
boiled egg was taken.  The children had recesses then as well as the younger
children do now although all grades could partake of this activity.  Morning
recesses were from 10:15 to 10:30 and afternoon recess, from 2:15 to 2:30.

Everett went to school at Haegarmen #9 School and tells of the time when the
children persuaded the teacher to exchange their recess time for a longer lunch
period. This time was used by some of the boys to hustle down to a near by
stream and go skinny dipping in the water.  This worked out real well until one
of the boys almost drowned.  Everett recalls saving the boys life by giving him
artificial resperation.  After that happened the teacher found out what the
boys had been up to and there were no more recess exchanges for longer lunch

There were no school busses to pick up the children and carry them to school
in the morning and again return them home at night.  Everett and his sister and
brothers had to walk, one and one-fourth miles by road or one mile if you cut
through fields, every day and morning, and evening. If they were lucky their
father would take them to school by horse and wagon when the weather was bad.
The school year was much different then, starting in August, running for
three, three month periods.  They were: August September and Oct: December,
January and February: and then again April, May and June.  The months of
November, March and July were always off months having no school.  It took
Everett three years to complete his eight grade because he had to help work
during the summer months and could only go to school during the months when the
weather was bad enough so he couldn't work outside.

He was thirteen years old when he got his first job working as a farm hand for
his mothers brother, Uncle Willie Andrews,  in the Lewis Bottom area between
Palo and Center Point.  He received the sum of $1.00 per day as his wage.  He
usually stayed at the uncle's home but when transportation was needed his horse
"June" provided it for him. He worked as a general farm hand doing jobs from
mowing hay to milking cow.

Everett lived near the Center Point area until he met and married Erma Van
Fossen, daughter of Jacob Steven A. Douglas and Anna Agenes Elizabeth ( Hopper)
Van Fossen.

Everett and Erma met in the Shellsburg Community Hall at a party that was
being held there. Upon the request of Elaine Boddicker, Everett told on tape
about their wedding day.

"The year was 1927 on February the eleventh. The weather was considerable
different then than it is now. The roads were so rough that we couldn't get on
the highways with cars or hardly with horse and buggy. This on the eleventh
of February in Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Two is our Fifty Fifth Wedding
anniversary. I walked from Lewis Bottom which is five miles east of Shellsburg
up to Shellsburg, picked up my intended wife and we walked from her place down
to the depot, and got on the train. We rode to Cedar Rapids, went to the court
House and got our license. We didn’t have to have a waiting period at the
time. We got our marriage license and got on the train again, went up to
Toddville, had the same minister marry me and my wife that married my father
and his wife and also my one brother (Forrest) and his wife. I think maybe
that's kind of a record. But today, February the fifth, nineteen hundred and
eighty two, it's cold. I'll tell you what "it's a whole lot different today
than it was in the year nineteen hundred and twenty seven." Well after we got
married there in Toddville, we had no way of going, only a foot so we walked
back down to the railroad track and almost seven miles up the railroad track to
where my folks was living. We stayed there for a few days and came back over
and I started working for Willie Andrews again. We worked the rest of that
year up until March 1, 1928, them moved back to Center Point. We lived over
there a year and moved back to this side of the river in 1929. We been stuck
over here ever since. That’s about all the history of back in them days when
we either went a foot or we just didn’t go atoll. this is the old man Everett
Cress and after fifty five years of marriage life I'm still going pretty strong.

They moved in 1929 to Shellsburg and purchased an eighty acre farm in the 40's
from Dan King. This farm was located one mile West and one fourth mile north of
Shellsburg, Canton Township, Range 9. It was one of the oldest places between
Vinton and Shellsburg in Benton County. Ralph and Marie Spencer had lived on
the farm before Everett's purchased it. A very unfortunate thing happened to
Everett and Erma in the transaction of the farm.

A small amount of Erma's money was borrowed from Erma'a parents and used to
purchase this land. Therefore Anna's name was put in the courthouse records.
After Grandma's Van' s (Van Fossen) death the farm sold and when final
payment was made on the farm by the buyer the deed and abstract had to be
brought up to date. In 1978 the courts made Everett and Erma pay inheritance
taxes on the land that they already owned.

They lived on this farm until 1973 but in the 60's they purchased the small
house in Shellsburg of Grandma Van Fossen's. After they purchased this house
one of Everrett's brothers' Lloyd Cress lived there until Everett and Erma's
children moved them into town. At the time this was done Everett was not
very happy about it but he soon adjusted to town living and enjoying life to
the best of his ability.

All of their nine children except the oldest two were born on the farm and all
attended the Shellsburg, School. Even many of the grandchildren attended
school and graduated from Shellsburg. Most of the children and grand children
settled down within a 50 mile radius of Shellsburg, Iowa.

While Everett and Erma were young and raising their family they were not able
to do much traveling but found their enjoyment in going to barn dances and
visiting friends. Everett played a guitar and a fiddle in a small band one
time and was pretty good at calling square dances. Many Saturday nights were
spent with friends gathering together somewhere for a dance. The children can
remember all the coats that were piled on the tables that were not full of
refreshments. When one of the children got tired all he had to do was to pile
on top of the coats and hope he didn't get lost in the shuffle.
After the children started marrying and settling down some of the daughters
and sons-in-laws would take them on a trip with them. Some of the states they
have traveled in with Fern and Ralph , Decie and Clyde, Doris and George and
Alberta and Earl are: Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Northern
Missouri and Nebraska.

There were two different ways of farming that Everett used during his years of
farming. Starting with a horse and wagon and progressing on to the tractor.
This tractor was a John Deer G.P. 1927 model taken approximately in 1936 or
37..His horse died of sleeping sickness.

Grandpa was an electrician for many years, and he enjoyed fishing and
parties, dancing, telling stories and laughing.

He was president of the Senior Citizen Club several times and Grandma was
always in charge of picking up the bingo prizes. Grandma always gardened large
huge garden and loved to make quilts embroidering and crocheting .

There was an article about Mr. and Mrs. E.L. Cress and a daughter, Doris, 15
suffered minor injuries last night about 7:30 when the 1933 Chevrolet driven by
Cress, collided head-on with a 1929 model a Ford, driven by William Sutton of
Palo. The accident occurred at an intersection one and three-quarter miles
southeast of here.

Cress suffered a minor head cut, his wife, leg cuts and bruises and Doris
suffered a sprained neck. they were treated by Dr. C.L. Bradley at Newhall and
sent home. The Cresses" other four children, riding with them when the
accident occurred, were uninjured.

Cress, traveling north, had allegedly stopped at the intersection and turned
west as Sutton reportedly approached on the wrong side of the road. Both
vehicles were damaged beyond repair. Sutton, riding alone, was unhurt.

I remember grandpa eating pancakes everyday with butter and sugar on them or
milk and sugar. Mom remembers being stood on a stool to the stove making
pancakes for the whole family everyday.

Submitted by Sheryl Reynolds
© Sheryl Reynolds

See additional information on Compton and Hildebrand marriages here.

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