Written By Eliza Halls
Edited by Kristine Halls Smith
Grandma wrote interesting stories of her life, but she only got as far as 1925 in her writings.
—Kristine Halls Smith
I was born October 31, 1893 to Jens Niels Christensen Winter, son of Jens Peder Christensen Winter and Anne Petersen Winter of Trige, Aarhus, Denmark, and Mary Margaret Petersen Winter, daughter of Lars Petersen and Anne Larsen Jensen Petersen of Systoff, Gundsley, Denmark. I was named Anna Eliza Winter. My aunt, Mary Petersen told me that I was two months premature at birth, brought on under the stress of a Halloween prankster. At this time, Mother and Father were living in Grandfather Winter’s house which he had helped to build at the age of ten. They built it by mixing the adobes by hand. The adobes were made of red sand and lime mixed together and dried in the summer sun. The house was built on the top of a hill at the south edge of Huntsville.
Grandfather Winter lived at the homestead on Hawkins Southwest Creek. In those days, they would go out and file on what they called a homestead. They had to live on it three months each year for three years, and then it belonged to them. I remember being told that Aunt Sine (Jensine Christensen Winter), my father’s younger and only surviving sister, stayed with them in the winter to go to school. My father was the second child. My grandparents lost six children at birth or shortly after. Some lived to be two and one half years.
Somewhere between 1893 and 1898 we moved down the road to the house that Dad built. He had cleared the ground of willows and built a two-room adobe house. Dad and Mother planted trees, and until the advent of the Pine View Dam, it was known as Winter’s Grove.
On January 25, 1896, Dora Estelle was born with red, curly hair. She was the third child and I was the second. Our older sister, Margaret Rozina was born on August 14, 1891 and had blond hair. I do not remember moving, but I do remember the building addition of the kitchen and pantry. Mary and Pete, Grandpa’s children, and Margaret used to play on the floor joists. I was afraid of falling through. We were living in this house when Elmer Jens, my only brother and last child of my mother, was born December, 21, 1899. I was just six years old. I remember Mrs. Hislop, the midwife, coming and going, telling me to keep Dora, age three, busy and not let her in the other room. Margaret was nowhere around. This baby boy I fetched and cared for, and I also cared for Mother. I remember that I must have asked over and over, “Is a couple two?” because Mother got impatient with me. (Well, I still cannot remember more than five minutes).
We were a happy family. Some evenings when Dad came home he would pretend to make a big issue of Margaret and me helping to pull off his boots. At times we would get on his knees and he would jiggle and sing to us while waiting for supper. In the summer we played on the river’s edge which ran a short distance from the house and was never very deep. I do not remember ever falling in, but I have a faint memory of being pulled out of a ditch of water by the pond and of backing up into a bucket of water that had been carried by Dad for washing clothes, etc. On wash days he would carry the water from the river and fill all the buckets, tubs, and boilers before going to work. He bought one of the first washers out. It operated with two curved washboards (like boards) that ran opposite directions, the top one inside the other, the clothes in between.
In the fall when school days came, to put shoes and stockings on was pure torture. We walked to school in good weather. We would go to Grandpa Winter’s and wait for Mary, and walk together from there three blocks, a distance of one mile in all.
Anne, Mary, and Pete were the children of Grandpa Winter and his second wife, Mette Marie Petersen. For lunch we walked three blocks to Grandpa’s and back. My legs were short, and it was hard to keep up with Mary and Margaret. It was hurry, hurry, hurry. I saw others at school who took their lunch, having time for play at noon. I thought how nice it would be to take my lunch, but I had to have an excuse, for I was afraid the plain truth would not be good enough; so I came up with the excuse that Mary wouldn’t give me enough time to eat. There may have been some truth in that as I have always been a slow eater. Even then my teeth were poor. I remember having a toothache at the age of five, sitting by the stove and holding hot packs to my face. Anyhow, one morning we appeared at Grandpa’s with our lunch buckets and, of course, Grandpa wanted to know why. I told him the same story. We got a real Danish Scotch blessing, a good bawling out. I could not understand a word he said, but the tone I heard. It may have been directed at Mary as much as me for she understood and she wouldn’t walk to school with us that morning. We tagged along behind, and I bet Grandpa hotfooted it down home to get the straight of things. Well it was fun while it lasted, and it was not long before we were back at Grandpa’s for lunch, no more foolishness.