Decatur County, Iowa
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Memoirs of Ola Pitman Hacker
October 4, 1885 Ė April 3, 1978
In the fall of 1969, I asked Mom to write the story of her life. She worked on this in September, 1969 and I typed it exactly as she had written it. At the time of the writing, Mom was 83 years old. I hope others will enjoy the story as much as I have enjoyed working on it. Iím proud to say, ďThatís my MomĒ Mary (Hacker) Butcher.
I was born October 4, 1885, in a log house four miles southeast of Leon, Iowa. My parents were James Henry Pitman, a Civil War Veteran, and Elizabeth Mehitable Pitman - maiden name of Newcomer. I had three living brothers - George Woodbury, Fredrick Albert, and Harvey Melvin. I had one living sister, Ida Mabel, and one sister deceased, Clara Viola. My Mother died on May 15, 1887. I lived with the family until Ida married John Farver in 1889. Papa hired a cousin, Nelle Crawford to keep house for us. Grandmother Newcomer came to live with us, also. All was not well. Papa and the boys stayed on the farm to batch. I lived for awhile with Motherís brother, Uncle Taylor Newcomer. I stayed with Papaís sister, Margaret Poole, then Mrs. Sarah Johnson (Lennaís mother) took me in for awhile. The fall of 1891, my cousin, Mettie Lindsay, took me so I could go to school. She was the first grade teacher in Leon. I stayed three years. In the summertime, I would go and visit Papa and the boys. I also visited my sister, Ida, who had a little girl, Elizabeth ( we called her Bess). She also had a younger son, Charlie, who passed away at the age of 15 years. My brother, George passed away January 28, 1892. The fall of 1894, Aunt Met was not well and could not take care of me so I boarded with a family by name of Newlin. Aunt Met improved toward spring. I went back to her and stayed until Papa and Lenna were married on March 12, 1998. My life with Aunt Met and Uncle Hiram was good. I called them Aunt and Uncle for their two girls, Louie and Laura, were older than me. Uncle Hiram was one of the kindest men that I ever knew. He built a playhouse on their lot and built furniture for me. Hazel Peters and I furnished it with cast-off rugs and dishes that Aunt Met and Hazelís grandmother, Mrs. Tom Teale, gave us. Hazel made her home with her grandmother. Laura made fancy notches in newspapers for window curtains. A neighbor boy, Fred Kemp, much older than we girls, would go along and lock us in. We would have to crawl out of a window. We would vow we would get even with him. Papa always came to see me on Saturday. He would sometimes bring Harve.
This was always an exciting time of the week. One day a show came to town and put their tent in the schoolyard. The ladies of The Christian Church served dinner in Woodardís yard, the first house south of the schoolhouse. We little girls lined up along a picket fence to watch the people go by, for everyone walked then. Fred and his girl went by. I was so glad to see him as it had been quite a while since I had seen him. He had quite a time getting my hand loose so he could go on. Many funny things happened. There were times I needed to be corrected, but never by Uncle Hiram. Aunt Met had my head so it would swing back and forth like a coffee pot lid. Papa had given orders that I was not to be spanked, so she shook me. There were four of we little girls in that block. Florence Oney had neither father or mother, Maud Stocker and Hazel Peters each had mother and I had a father.
Bill Rhea, an ex-slave, lived with Eva Rhea. Her father had given Bill his freedom but he stayed with Eva and did odd jobs. He always raked leaves in the fall and piled them in the road, then would come at dusk and light them. What fun we girls had with him. He always had candy for us. I suppose if wieners and marshmallows had been known then, we would have had a roast.
In school, we always had so many drills which I enjoyed so much. Every year we had a Motherís visiting day. So many times I was the only one without a mother. If I could only remember her face, the gentle stroke of her hand, the love that I know she gave me, but then I could not understand. I believe Mothers were more interested in school then for they would all be there. Of course, there was no clubs to go to. We learned lots of poems, and I can still recite many of them. I never learned English very well.
The high school students would walk around the block at recess and noon hour. We grade children were not allowed out of the yard that was enclosed with a steel fence. We would line up along the fence and giggle about the different couples. One day Joe Warner told Jenny Schenk and I how good that steel rod tasted, so we stuck our tongues to it. You know what happened for it was a cold day.
Papa and Lenna were married on March 12, 1898, by Mayor James Grandstaff in Uncle Ed Pitmanís Real Estate Office. We went to live on a farm four miles south of Leon. I attended Sapher School. Ed Swope was the teacher. All that was between our house and the school house was our orchard with all kinds of apples (spring, summer, fall, and winter). When wild flowers were in bloom we would all go to our pasture near the school house and gather the flowers and sometimes eat our lunch there. I was afraid of stock, in fact, I was coward. If there was ditch or a hill to travel across, I would lay down in the bottom of the wagon or buggy. One day, Fred, Harve, and I started to feed the cattle. We came to a little ditch and I started to lay down. Fred grabbed the back of my coat and made me stand up. If you hear screams, that is the echo just getting back. Nothing worthy of noting the next few years, just every day living with lots of fun and some sadness.
On June 24, 1900, a little son, Clair was born. He just lived five days and is buried in New Salem Cemetery where all my people are, except Ida, who is buried in the Lentz Cemetery at Woodland.
We moved to Leon in the spring of 1901. Papa took a notion to go to Oklahoma and homestead. He had a wagon fixed with an over jut for springs and mattress. He bought a new wagon cover, tent, and cot. We had a nice fat roan team and new harness.
Another family, Walter Smith, sons Mark and Neil, and Mrs. Smithís brother, Rolla Chastain wanted to go to Kansas to visit relatives, so we decided to travel together.
We left Leon on June 20, 1901. Each one had their own chore to do. Papa and Walter started the fires and took care of the horses. Lenna and Net(Mrs. Smith) cooked. Roll and I put up the tent and I made Papaís bed.
Lenna and I slept in our wagon. Smithís in theirs. Papa slept on the cot in the tent. And Roll on the ground.
We had a little sheet iron stove. Papa would make a depression in the ground, start the fire and set the stove over it. There were two joints of pipe. When the meal was cooked, we would just upend the stove, put the fire out and let the stove cool.
One evening when Walter was making the fire, Neil threw a rock and hit his Dad on the head. It wouldnít do for me to write what Walter said.
About camping time, Papa would go to a house and ask to buy feed for the horses for night and morning. The man would always come out and look us over and say, ď Drive right in the lot and camp.Ē The families would always come out and visit in the evenings until bedtime.
We crossed the Missouri River at White Cloud, Kansas on a ferry boat. The river was bankfull. Neil Smith thot it was a awful big pond-(I think he was four years old). I donítí remember where Smiths turned off.
The night of July 4th, a big storm came up. The man where we were camped insisted we drive into the driveway of the barn. They all wanted us to go to the house to sleep, but we stayed in the wagon. The son came home sometime in the night and when he saw that white sheet, it gave him quite a scare.
We went to Concordia, Kansas and visited Papís oldest sister, Emaline Stanley, her husband, Calvin and daughter, Julia. Two of their grand-daughters, Hattie Crawford and Gelnna Stanley, were there, also.
It was so hot and Uncle Calvinís peaches were ripe. Between the birds and we girls, his crop was shortened.
We were there three weeks and no rain. We hitched up Dot and Jose and started home. We traveled the same route as when we went out.
Men were doing fall plowin as we came home. They would recognize the team and take off their hats and wave, we would camp and visit again.
We crossed the Missouri River at White Cloud, but had to ferry up the river a mile, then cross to miss the sand bars. The river had gone down that much. We bought eggs for 6 cents a dozen and butter for 5 cents a pound on the way.
I wish I had kept a record of the people that were so nice to us, and everone was. I wonder what it would be like to travel that route and how would the people react about a covered wagon today.
The Davis City Reunion was on when we went through there. Charlie Mills passed us on the way and he stopped at Sprinkles told them we were coming, so Harve had the gate open and was waiting for us when we got there. He had worked there all summer and our furniture was stored there. The next morning Papa went to Leon and rented the house we had left in June from Uncle Ed.
I started to school in Septemberómy first year of high school. My studies were Algebra, Arithmetic, Spelling and History. Professor Drake gave a lesson in writing to the whole school once every day. On November 10, a little son, Wilber Ernest, was born. He passed away in August, 1902.
I went into the Christain Church in February, 1902. Before the school year ended, the old school house was torn down and classes were held in different places. I went to my classes over Esnsellsí Store. (Now, in 1969, its Grahams).
That summer, I sewed with Miss Emms Alexander. I gave here three months of time for her to teach me. She did pay me 10 cents for every buttonhole I made. She said they were perfect. The new schoolhouse was ready in the fall of 1902. To we scholars, it was like a mansion. The stair rails to the basement were perfect for sliding down.
The High School was divided into two societies. The Philomathians and the Athenians. I was a Philo. Such fights as we did have. We had mock trials, debates and plays. Each side had a flag. The Athenians was blue and gold. Ours was black and red.
One day some of us got the Athenian flag and burned it, then we got scared. When school was called, Orr Young, across the aisle from me, asked to speak. He held his civics book out to me as thought to ask about the lessen, but we were wondering what was going to happen about the flag. Miss Drake said, ďOla and Orr, bring your civics books and come up here.Ē We had to stand on the floor until time to go to Eli Hutchinsonsí room to recite. When we got back, I went to my seat but Orr had counted the boards from the piano to where he had been standing. He went back and took his place.
The next mock trial was whether I should of gone back on the floor or go to my seat. Anod of all the things kis can tell- they made me out a criminal. The jury found me guilty. The Judge sentenced me to never mention the flag burning.
My studies that year where Geometry, History, Civics, and Commercial Law.
On June 24, 1902, another son was born to Papa and Lenna. They named him James Harl.
I never finished the school year. I decided I wanted to be a trimmer in a Millenary Store. Loura Lindsay had learned from Lucy Ray and was trimming in Charition, Iowa. In March, 1903, I went to Mrs. Rayís shop to report to work. In millenary work, there was three months work in spring, three months off and three more months in fall. Those first six months was time given to Mrs. Ray for teaching. The other six months was yours.
The first three months that summer I tried door to door selling pillows with photos on them. I did guite well until I got clear around the town, but no on wanted the second pillow. I went back to Mrs. Ray;s in August for my other three months. During one three months I had kept house for Crouses.
In February, 1904, I was ready to go to the wholesale house to take notes. She sent me to Quincy, Illinois for two weeks. I left Leon in the afternoon, got as far as Humeston and there had been a wreck. I stayed all night with Ed and Fanny Pitman. Mrs. Ray had sent work to E.R. Brown, the salesman that made Leon. He always met the girls from there and took them to a good hotel. He met the train I was supposed to be on. I wasnít there. He thought I had changed my mind, so the next night when I got there at 11:00 oíclock, there was no one to meet me. I asked a policeman for a decent hotel. He took me across the street to the Moecher Hotel and it was good. When I went to the wholesale house the next morning, there was a surprised Mr. Brown.
I stayed two weeks and went back to Mrs. Rayís for $3.00 a week. Mr. Brown wrote Mrs. Ray and told her that at Nauvoo, Illinois, they wanted to put in a shop. He thought that might be a good place for me. I wrote Laura Lindsay to see if she would want to go in with me. Fred and Harve would furnish the money for our first bill of goods, then we would be on our own.
We wrote the mayor of Nauvoo and he said there was a building on Main Street for $10.00 a month. It was long enough we could have living quarters in the back of the shop. Everything was sailing along until I found out there was no railroad in the town. The only way we could ge our goods from Quincy or get out of town was by ferry boat. That cooked it for me.
The day we went through Nauvoo, in 1965, I took a good look a Main Street. Maybe it looked different in 1904. Of course sixty-one years might make a difference, but I wondered which end that building was on.
I was happy to stay with Mrs. Ray and she gave me $4.00 a week.
Ida Downey had started a store in Van Wert and wanted me to help here. She paid me $6.00. I stayed with her until November, and she could not make a go of it.
I got a job in the Reporter Office setting typre. I liked that work better than anything I had ever done. I was good at it, but Papa made me give it up. Claud Beck coughed all the time and Papa just knew he had T.B. and thought I would sure get it. Claud lived for years.
In the spring, 1904, I went back to Mrs. Rayís, then Mr. Langrender, a tailor from Germany, wanted me to sew for him. Mrs. Ray told me to take the job for it was year around work. I got two weeks vacation in August. He paid me $3.00 per week, soon raised it to $4.00, the $5.00, and finally $6.00 for ten hours a day and no coffee break.
I worked for him until Don and I were married on December 29th, 1909.
Don and Charlie had rented the big Hingston Ranch south of Weldon. The fall of 1909, Don stayed there to do a lot of the fall plowing. One night the barn burned and burned three of his horses. He had no insurance. We got married anyway. I had some furniture, a lot of bedding, $75.00, and lots of courage.
We all moved to the ranch in March, 1910. In June, Charlie bought Don out. Don and Bill Ransom bought the butcher shop in Van Wert. We lived there until November 3.
Don bought a half interest of cattle and horses from Jim Howell. We moved to his farm in the Fairview neighborhood where our first son, John Pitman, was born on April 6, 1911.
On March 1, 1912, we moved to Charlie Mooreís place and on August 17, 1912, our son, Keith Woodrow, was born.
On March 1, 1913, we moved to the Clate Ketter place, later bought by James Harvey. On October 22, 1913, our first baby girl, Alice Louise, was born.
Donís sisters, Laura and Ruth, were making their homes with us, on account of strife between the older children and their father. Don tried to placate both sides until he finally got things straightened out. Mr. John F. Hacker deeded 80 acres of land to them. They wanted us to move there, so we did. Laura and Lester Otis Thompson got married and moved there. We moved back across the field to the Harvey place where we had been. We stayed there until March 1919.
On May 24, 1918, another baby girl, Mabel Elizabeth, came to join our family.
We rented a big place about three miles south of Weldon from Sam McMurry. We moved there March 1, 1919.
In late winter of 1920, Don was stricken with a ruptured appendix. He was in Dr. Jamisonís hospital for nine and a-half weeks. We took him home on Johnís birthday, April 6, 1920. We made a bed with springs and mattress in the bottom of the sled. The roads were blocked with snow, so we just took down fences and went through fields. Along on horseback to help were Bolla Craig, Ben Barton, Ardan Stevens, Ed Schultz, Ben McCombs, and George Warren. Fred and I were in the sled.
The children picked up snow and made ice cream for their dadís supper. Brother Fred stayed with me all the time, John Bullard was there part o fthe time. Henry Williamson every day for dinner. Bess, Rhoma, and Lee were there for quite awhile. I was paying $25.00 for a hundred pounds of sugar and $9.00 for a bushel of potatoes.
Don had bought a farm in Wyoming and we were talking of going out there to live the next year. We took a trip out there in a Model T Ford in the summer of 1921. We borrowed a tent from Shelby Eddy that covered the car when pulled over and fastened on the side to a fence. The first night out we camped on a by-road. The next night we were in a school yard. The heat, sand, and desolation were enough for me.
The last day, we tried to find a tree to get under to eat our dinner. We went for miles and finally came to a cotton wood that would shade one of us at a time, so we never moved to Wyoming.
We attended the Cheyenne Frontier Days and visited homes of Donís brotherís and sister, Charlie, Bryon, Joe and Ruth The children attended Lone Start School and on March 19, 1922, our last little girl, Mary May, was born. The snow was so deep that Don delivered the baby. When the doctor arrived he was sitting behind the stove, rocking the baby.
The fall of 1926, we moved to the Slaymaker farm just south of Weldon. The boys entered high school and it was better for all of them.
The boys graduated in 1930, Louise in 1931, Mabel in 1935, and Mary in 1939.
My father passed away September 25, 1940. Donís father stayed with us for some time, but he died in January, 1944. My brother, Fred, was struck by a car on October 4, 1958 and died October 12. Brother Harve died two months later on December 13, 1958.
We had lots of work to do on the farm, and the children did their share. I did lots of sewing, for in those days you couldnít run to the store and buy anything you needed. I made most of the childrenís clothes and enjoyed doing it.
We did lots of canning. I liked to embroidery and liked to crochet. I belonged to Farm Bureau. At the time of this writing (1969), I have been a member of Thursday Reading Club for forty-four years. I also belong to Weldon Mothers Club, W.SC.S, and the Methodist Church. I have always been active in these and enjoyed working in them until lately, I havenít done much.
Now all of the children are married. John married Thelma Roe on March 20, 1932. Keith married Ellen Caldwell on August 24, 1933. Louise married Henry Hein on November 30, 1934. Mabel married Russell Fierce on February 19, 1939. Mary married Leo Butcher on March 27, 1943.
We have twelve grandchildren that are wonderful. Nine are married and we have twenty great-grandchildren.
Don had a stroke in April, 1962, but he gained full control of his body and would raise a little garden each year. On July 9, 1969, another stroke left him helpless and he passed away on August 10, 1969. Everything was done for him that could be done. The children were so faithful to him, also the doctors and nurses.
Of late years, we had taken pleasure trips. In 1947, Donís sister, Hattie, and we went to see their brothers, Charlie, Byron, and Joe. We also saw their sister, Ruth, at Pine Bluff, Wyoming. We attended the Cheyenne Frontier Days. We went to Byronís cabin west of Denver. It was such a lovely place.
The summer of 1953, Don and I took a trip through the Bad Lands, Black Hills and Yellowstone Park. We stayed at Canyon Lodge. Everything was so green and timber all around. We went to Ruthís at Cheyenne, Lauraís at Hereford, Colorado, and Byron had built more cabins west of Denver. They lived there the year around. He had a large one with a fireplace at each end. He would light the dead cedar and pine woods in the evening. It smelled so good.
The summer of 1957, Don, Mary, Leo, Barbara, and I took a trip to the Ozarks. It was so delightful. The mountains were not so big but were beautiful. We went to Collins, Missouri and visited two cousins I had never seen but had corresponded with one of since were little girl, Grace Allison and Elsie Adkins.
The summer of 1964, Don, Mary, Leo, Barbara, and I took the same trip through the Bad Lands. We stayed two nights in Hill City, in the center of the Black Hills. We saw many things Don and I had missed. We also missed getting in Canon Lodge in Yellowstone. We stayed at Fishing River Bridge. We had reservations for two nights but just stayed one night. We went on down through the Tetons to Cheyenne, Wyoming to Ruthís. Byron and Lola had moved to Calistoga, California, but they were visiting them too. We went to Laura and Lesterís at Hereford, Colorado, then to Joe and Blancheís at Crete, Nebraska, and had a wonderful time there. We went to Omaha, Nebraska, and stayed all night at Louiseís then on home.
They asked me where I wanted to go the next summer. I wanted to see Iowa. We visited several places Ė Bentonsport, Keokuk, Fort Atchison, Herbert Hooverís birth place and tomb, Bily Brothers Clock works, the smallest church at Festina, Iowa and that wonderful Grotto at West Bend. I may have forgotten some but it was a trip I had always wanted to take. (This was in 1965).
I think it was in 1960, I went to Duluth, Minnesota with Mary, Leo and Barb. Don didnít want to go. It was wonderful too. Lake Superior was the most water I had ever seen. The ships looked so majestic out so far from shore. The Lakeshore Drive was so beautiful. We also visited the Little Brown Church.
In nearly sixty years of married life many things happen in the way of happiness, sadness and calamities. In 1929, the bottom dropped out of everything. Prices dropped and in 1934, the chinch bus ate all of the crops. In 1936, a drought struck everyone. We had to cut down trees for feed for the cattle. During some of those years, corn was ten cents a bushel. It was used for fuel when it could be found. Time and patience are great healers and good times will always com againóin spite of all the hardships .
THE TIME HAS COME FOR US TO PART.
YOUR RACE HAS BEEN WELL RUN.
YOUR THOUGHTS AND WORK WAS ALL FOR US,
THE THINGS YOU LOVED ARE DONE.
NOW, ALL I HAVE IS MEMORIES
AND CHILDREN THAT I LOVE.
IíM RICH IN BOTH OF THESE, MY DEAR,
UNTIL MY TIME WILL COME
By Mrs. Ola Hacker
Submission by Brian Gegner