Stateline Travelers – Part 1 – My West Central Illinois Farm Home and Me
by Vicki Ruthe Hahn SGS Stateline Genealogy Sorter
August 9, 2016
This is the first of several Stateline Travelers Posts that I am writing about people moving across state lines. Keep in mind that most of our ancestors did not stay put, even though it was harder for them to travel and communicate than now. It will help you not to fixate on looking for GGG grandpa only in the sources for one location. Yes, he might be the same man reflected in the Wisconsin, Illinois, California, and Florida directories and U.S. Censuses. (We will explore William Graydon’s residences in Stateline Travelers – part 11 – William Graydon, a War Hero Mystery Solved and Me. .)
But first, let’s start with “home” What place do you think of as home? Where did our ancestors feel homesick for in all their travels? Here is an example of how you can write your family story or your own Life Story.
Use all of your senses as you remember places that you lived in, and imagine what your ancestors heard, smelled, saw, touched, and tasted in their times. It helps to draw a map of your house and yard and note what happened in each room/place. You could also write some names and a draw word pictures as a free association. This Post will only be a sample of a memoir, and my locations in Stateline Travelers Part 2 – Travels North and South and North, and Me will be a sample of how to “map” your relative’s life. I feel sorry for my descendants who will try to do my family genealogy as my children have moved a bit also. Help your future family genealogists out.
For more great techniques on how to write, you can come any Wednesday from 6 – 8 p.m. to the Beloit Public Library to join with the Stateline Night Writers group. The Library will be doing a another month long session of NaNoWriMo National Novel Writing Month (in November 2016.) Don’t miss our Stateline Genealogy Club @ Beloit Public Library program December 9, 2016 –“Writing Your Family History, How to Record the Stories of Your Ancestors for Posterity”, by Tom Hess. We had the program April 10, 2015 – “Lifewriting Workshop – writing our own stories to share with our families, the kind of stories we wish our ancestors had written”, by Judy Rockwell. We were invited to bring a photo from our past that we might like to write about. We learned how to see more about our ancestors’ lives in the process of reflecting our own life.
My West Central Illinois Farm home and Me
I grew up, until almost 8, on a farm 18 miles from Macomb (west central) Illinois. It was 3 miles from the nearest town (of 500) Table Grove (which we visited frequently to see my Ruthe Grandparents. Table Grove, Illinois had been Laurel, Illinois until they found that there was already a town by that name. Hint – the location names change through history – The reasons that places change names can give you an indication of their history.
My Ruthe Grandparents had moved there to expand and remodel a small town house, after letting my father take over the farm. Our 2 story foursquare frame farmhouse was built, in the cool of mature trees, by my great grandfather who started the 160 acre farm. I’m not sure if he helped with the carpentry, but my Grandfather’s and father’s carpentry skills leads me to suspect that he did.
It was the most beautiful and comfortable house with a big farm kitchen, (and bathroom), wood floors, built- in pass thru serving window to the dining room under a glassed display cabinet, with a door opening to the outside by the pantry,
wood pocket doors that could be opened to make the dining room and living room one,
the front door opening to a large brick porch with a swing. Mom created holiday chandelier decorations, and set up a Santa sewing shop surrounded by divider screens in the middle of the Dining Room, replaced by the large pine smells of the Christmas tree cut on our farm.
Stand in line with our eyes closed and and our hands out to receive a hand-sewn Raggedy Ann doll clothed in a removable outfit, and then watch the first-experienced (tiny black and white) jaw-dropping television Howdydoody and Roomper Room.
There were 4 bedrooms upstairs, and one downstairs, a huge working basement with a milk-cooling sink and canning kitchen, a large work bench, and coal room.
The rear screened-in porch, where I cried at ruining my cloth dolly by dropping it into the milk pail of fresh buttermilk scent, held the hole-punch decorated pie safe. Then across a brick patio to the woodhouse, before walking in fresh-cut cool grass to the huge fenced-in backyard with our large swing set and a wooded tepee step-stile that Dad made for us to imagine adventures on and under. Nearby the huge farm garden and bee-buzzed fruit trees. Behind the large yard the huge old chicken (playhouse) that had been replaced by the smaller one down the sidewalk past the concrete steps that I fell on many Saturdays for scabbed knees and Sunday dress at church.
Our Farmhouse & yard (note Chicken Run!), drawn by my Dad – Clarence Eugene Ruthe
Go straight ahead past the “bleeding hearted” and princess-dresses hollyhocks white picket fence to the barnyard with the boarded scary bull of ringed nose, on to the red barn with sweet hay, and Dad milking swish, swish, squirt into the cat’s mouth. Pet the soft cow’s warm flank, catch the sweet sour fermented silage whiff, then into the field that was the dry abandoned pond sledding hill that only filled with snow, not water.
Or turn left past the garage, balloon-pop sumac grove to the scolding chicken eggs place and courageously try to help Mom, who first helps fasten your back dress buttons. Then down the grade, running with a farm Dachshund!, swing past the gate to the dippered bucket hand-pump, and watch Dad chop the head off of a soundlessly squawking rooster running in circles, until pin feathers have to be wrestled out for supper. Then on past another playhouse empty corncrib, and the old green tractor that you will never get to drive, into the “combined” machine shed, and ..”sisters – turn your faces and close your eyes” as Dad welds the bright arc of white. Turn left after the gas tank, through another gate, to fields of grass taller than the little bare girl bath-escaped where boarded sheep are let loose through careless gate closing oops, and “no trip to town now” sheep hunt.
Further down to the crisp, sharp mellow green pond of spring-fed cool with iridescent blue-green dragonflies zip stitching the muggy air, and nibble fishes of toes, caught hurrah on a mini pole. The treacherous dock throwing that little dressed girl into the overhead water, and a saved sputtered “no trip to town now”.
Mail car and Yellow Schoolbus visits, the highlight of the day. Every farm neighbor our relatives or familiar family friends. One mile walk with big sisters to Great Grandparent Jewisons’ farm; one mile visit the other way to Great (Grand) Uncle Wendel and Grand Aunt Jesse’s farm. Three miles jaunt to Grandparents Ruthe; 18 miles to Great Grandparents Ruthe. Each little nearby town a social and shopping mecca. And then we moved…..
That house and farm and part of Illinois have always felt like home to me. I have been back to visit the house as an adult, and it feels much smaller now than as an child. The shirttail relatives that bought the farm from my grandfather scolded me because they had to scrub off my personal crayoned television drawn on the wall of my bedroom, where I fell from my top bunkbed and hurt my arm.