Mary Margaret Petersen

Grandpa Petersen, her father, came to see us one day while we were sick and they talked for a long time. He sat in the kitchen and Mother stood in the bedroom door. As far as I remember, he was our only visitor. At one point, Dad had a doctor come from Ogden because there were no doctors in Huntsville. He gave Mother a bottle of medicine and told her to scrape her tongue. He pronounced it diphtheria.

On January 10, 1901, early in the morning, Dad said to us, “Don’t disturb your mother, she is sleeping.” I can see her now laying in bed. “And don’t let Elmer get in bed with her.” He was in the cradle. “I have to go see Grandma.” We slept on, as did Elmer. Mother had passed away in her sleep. The poison of the disease had gone inwards and too, she was five months pregnant according to Aunt Mary Petersen. The funeral was small. Very few came to the house as people were afraid. I stood by Mother’s casket and looked at her until someone pulled me away. We children did not go to the funeral. Grandma Winter stayed with us.

Uncle Joe Petersen said of my mother’s death, “My sister Mary died suddenly, supposedly of heart failure, January 10, 1901. At six o’clock in the morning, she raised up and asked her husband if the baby was covered, and, on lying down again, gave a couple of gasps and was gone. She died with a smile on her face, and looked very beautiful. The funeral was held the following Tuesday, January 15, in the Huntsville meeting house, but was poorly attended, probably because it was reported that she had been suffering from diphtheria. My cousin, Henry Petersen, gave the funeral sermon, a very excellent one. Brother David McKay dedicated the grave.”

When they thought we were safely well we moved, lock, stock, and barrel, along with beds and washer, to Grandpa Winter’s. I was only seven years old at this time, but I immediately adopted Elmer, age one. He was my little boy. Peter Winter told me in later years how I really took good care of that little boy. Poor Grandma [Anne Petersen Winter], then about 67 years old, now had a third family to care for. She was raising the children of Grandfather’s second wife, Mette, who died giving birth to Mary. Anne and Mary took the disease and were real sick for weeks.

Because one of Grandpa’s children was named Anne, the name I was called was changed to my middle name, Eliza, shortened to Liza or Lize. Grandma Petersen wanted to take two of us, but Dad would not separate the family. The adjustment must have been hard. Although they were not strangers to us, all was different.

Some weeks later, I had a strange dream which I remember very well. I saw the Devil standing in the bedroom door. He was dressed in black and red. He had two horns and a two-tined pitchfork. I must have seen his picture somewhere. I must have cried out in my sleep. Anne said I had had a bad dream, to go back to sleep. So I went to sleep, I guess, and then I saw Mother very plainly standing in the door. She was holding a baby in her arms. I saw these things just as plain as if I had been awake. Seeing Mother was very comforting. I guess a little girl was a bit lonesome.

Things were different, but gradually we got used to things. Mary would not give up her place by Grandma at the table. She would have been eleven years old. She could have been sort of spoiled and jealous of our intrusion. Gradually we all got used to the change. Dad, when he came to see us in the evening, would sometimes bring his violin with him and play for us. Grandma loved to hear him play her Danish songs. He played by ear. As time went on and we grew older, his visits came less often. We became sort of separated, and our relationship to him was never as it should have been.

Life was good, but changes came. Dad, after four years alone, married again. Jens Niels Christensen Winter and Mamie Tribe were married November 18, 1904, when I was eleven years old. We had seen her but once when Dad brought her to look us over. They came for us one Saturday morning, lock, stock, and organ. I wouldn’t go and leave Anne and Mary with all that work. I scrubbed the kitchen floor and the chairs, filled the wood box to the limit, carried water, and bawled all day. When all was done, about four o’clock in the afternoon, I walked down the road and took up a new life. Elmer recently told me that he kept going out to the gate to see if I was coming. He was afraid I wouldn’t. He was then almost five years old.

The furniture was about the same in the kitchen. The cupboard had been moved to the other end, and a new kitchen cabinet had been added. He had fixed the house inside and out, paper on the walls, linoleum on the kitchen floor, carpet in the front room and bedroom, the woodwork painted inside, and shiplap was put over the outside adobe. All was painted white. He built a stairway from the kitchen to the attic to make a room upstairs. The rafters were covered with boards, lacking three boards at the top. Dad was always going to finish it, but never did. A curtain was hung across the middle, making two rooms. It was a lovely place to sleep. We had new beds with no more straw. In the winter, the humming of the cold telephone wires would put us to sleep. The colder the weather, the louder they would hum. The chimney would help keep us warm, and if it was extra cold, Dad would open the stairway door. In summer, we would take out the windows on each end and a lovely breeze would blow through. Robins built a nest in a corner under the edge of the roof just outside the window, and yellow martins were on the other end. These we would watch all summer. The robins came back year after year. Best of all we could hear the rain on the roof and the croaking of the frogs in the spring.

Mamie Tribe (we called her Ma) was a good woman and she did her best, which was good. She had lived with her mother, taking in boarders to help with their income, which added to what her mother got from her husband who went with his second wife. Mamie could play the organ by ear; just hum a tune and she could play it. She was an excellent cook. She never taught us to cook for some reason, but we helped and learned a lot from her that way. I wish I knew how to make pumpkin pie and baked beans the way she did. She always made pumpkin pie for my birthday because I liked it so well.

In the summer, we practically moved out into the grove, between the house and the river. There was a nice flat spot there where we camped. Dad and Ma moved their bed into a big tent; their bedroom was rather small and stuffy in the summer. Sometimes we would get in a hurry and move out too early and have to move back into the house when the June rains came. Oh, what a muddy mess, so many things we needed were down in the grove. Many times the June rains came and the fishing season came together on the fifteenth of June. The poor drenched fishermen; how glad they were just for a cup of hot coffee. Dad and Ma were always the good guys. They loved doing things for people and, of course, got took by some. There was one group of businessmen who, when they came from Ogden to fish, would always bring something with them that was in season – watermelon, cantaloupe, oranges, apples, or candy. We were always glad to see them come.

My father loved to fish. He had done it from the time he was big enough. Now he sold the fish to the Ogden Canyon Hermitage Resort. He had a fish pond, so that made it legal. One game warden was a bit suspicious. He used to watch the river from his dad’s home through his spy glass. He was out to get someone. Ma used to go fishing and could catch them. She would take a bucket along with her. As we did not want to eat them, she put them in the pond. One time the warden caught her. This time she dumped them back in the river and that stopped her fishing for awhile. I think they earned their fishing privileges because, as the snow melted in the spring, the water came almost to the house and flooded part of the farm. One spring it dug a new river bed, and part of Dad’s farm was now on Grandpa’s side of the river.

When we hauled hay, someone would lead the horse on the hayfork. That was one hot job in July. When the man on the hay load said, “Ready,” we would lead the horse forward until the man in the barn yelled, “Trip,” then the one on the load would jerk the rope connected with the hayfork to drop the hay, and that was the signal to back the horse. So back and forth, back and forth we went as the loads of hay came in. These were long, hot days, but how fast the loads came in depended on which field was cut. The timothy hay, Dad said, was too heavy for us girls to lift, so he usually traded work with someone else.

We attended Sunday School. Dad was a teacher of the adult class, also a counselor for awhile. I attended Primary until age twelve, and then went to Mutual. Ma was organist in Primary for awhile. She taught me the words and tune of a song which was very pretty. I was asked to sing in Primary, through Ma’s suggestion I presume, and when she was playing the organ, she looked down and noticed she had her skirt on wrong side-out. Our song almost stopped, but she picked it up again right quick. I would sing at times in church, solos and duets. At sixteen I also helped to teach a Junior Sunday School class, and went to church on Sunday as most everyone did.

Around home I did a lot of singing, especially when I was washing dishes. No one ever told me to shut up, so I guess it was all okay. I took twelve organ lessons, at one dollar per, then they were stopped. I never knew why even though my teacher walked down to talk to Dad about it. She got a “No.” I guess $4.00 a month in those days was considered quite a bit. I remember Dad and Grandpa talked about it. They had cleared $300 one fall; they thought they had a good harvest. That does not sound like much, but in those days we had our own milk cows, chickens, eggs, pigs, and some ducks and geese. We stayed our distance from the gander; he would put down his head with his tongue out, and spread out his wings and come after us.

We used to wade in the river, and catch bullheads and minnows for Dad to fish with. We caught the bullheads with a two-tined fork. The dumb things would rest with their heads under a rock, but their hearing was good, so catching them was not easy. It depended on who was the smartest. The minnows we caught with a bent pin for a hook.

As we grew older, we took over the washing. It was a full day’s work. If we got through by two or three o’clock, we thought we were doing wonderfully well. But if we got through early, it was because the boiler of water went on the stove early, carried from ditch or river. Sometimes two of us would take a tub and two buckets to the river and fill them, carrying the tub between us and a full bucket, one on each side. For awhile we washed on washboards. The old washer must have given out. But whatever way we did it in those days, it was water and more water which was heated in a boiler. The white clothes were washed first, put in the boiler in soapy water and boiled for awhile, rinsed in a tub of water, then in a tub of water with bluing in it. The colored clothes got the same treatment, except the boil, and when they were all hung on the line to dry, they looked beautiful, so we could rest until evening when they were all brought in, folded, and put away. The ones that were to be ironed were sprinkled with water, folded and put away to be ironed on Tuesday. Monday and Tuesday were accounted for. We had no detergents, and no water softener, except lye if necessary. Later we got a washing machine. It was nice, but still a big job. We turned it fifteen minutes for each batch and also turned the wringer, but it beat doing it on the washboard. Lew Zitzman, Ma’s sister’s husband, put down a well a few feet from the door. It was grand for household use, but for washing in summer, the wash water came from the river.

There were raspberries to be picked, and red and black currants still in the garden that Dad and Mother had planted. It was now overgrown with grass, but a few strawberries also still survived. Such high hopes that ended all too soon. What we did not use, Ma would sell.

The following things are not in chronological order, but things we all did, year after year. The first year or two of our changed world is rather blank, but I do remember giving Elmer swift rides in his little red wagon, also playing with his dog. At times I would tease Elmer, but I don’t know why. Uncle Pete always teased me. Anyway, Elmer would take after me with the broomstick he still had. I would laugh so hard I could hardly run because I was afraid he would hit me. I asked him one day if he would have hit me. He said, “I don’t know, probably,” but I doubt it. He was maybe having as much fun as I.

I presume we did what we were told to do. Margaret and I, on our knees, mopped the kitchen floor on Saturday. In fact the whole house was cleaned on Saturday with broom, dust cloth, muscles, and strong backs.

Sometimes in the summer we would hang bedding out in the sun all day. At night they would smell so sweet and fresh. This we did quite often. Once a year the house was cleaned thoroughly. Everything was carried out. The carpets were taken up, hung on the clothesline, and beaten to get the dust out. The old trodden straw was cleaned up, the floors swept and scrubbed. The walls were wiped, woodwork and windows washed, new clean straw put down, and carpet stretched and tacked down. It took us one or two days. Ma did not help as much now that we were old enough to do things ourselves. She washed the curtains and did the kitchen work with Dora’s help. In those days of housework we all worked, and I must say I sort
of enjoyed it.

In the fall it was threshers. Although it was extra work, it was different and exciting, even with all the dishes we had to wash. A few men came for breakfast and some would stay for supper; others had home chores to do. Dinner at noon was the big meal, with ten to thirteen men. There was a hired girl who helped. We had potatoes to peel, a large table to set, dishes galore. Ma always made the pies. It was hard for me to decide which place to be, inside or out. I usually kept busy inside. How long the threshers were there depended on how much grain Dad harvested or how many times the threshing machine broke down. At first the machine was turned by horses going around and around all day. They were watered and fed at noon, along with a feed of grain. It was a long day’s work for them. We liked to run around the hard trail they left. I remember seeing Margaret pitching grain shocks onto the stack, but when the stack got so high, it had to be pitched by someone else.

We all had our turn working in the fields, bunching hay, and stomping and leveling it as it was pitched on the hayrack, also driving the horses from pile to pile. Later we gathered grain bundles from the binder, shocking them together, ready to be hauled to the stack.

The Fourth of July was a great day in Huntsville. The day would start with a big dynamite boom at four o’clock in the morning. By nine o’clock, the band wagon was out, playing music all around town. On the town square a program would be put on in the bowery. The bowery was made of posts in the ground with posts across overhead and tree branches spread over the top to keep out the sun. An organ was there and chairs were set for the speaker, and those on the program. Boards were set up for people to sit on. By ten or ten-thirty everything was ready to go – ice cream, candy, popcorn, lemonade – take your pick. I had five nickels so I could have five things. It was a hard choice. There was always a game of baseball in the afternoon. Elmer always managed to bring home some firecrackers. Whether Dad gave him more money than the rest of us, or whether his sweet tooth wasn’t as big as mine remains
a secret. As I got older, I enjoyed the ball games.

One spring the high water had washed the road out beyond the bridge. Uncle Peter had put a log over so they could cross over. One day Dora and I decided to cross over and go to Aunt Mary’s. We made it both ways over that swiftly roaring, boiling water. If we had fallen in, we would never have survived. It makes me shiver to think about it even now.

[Margaret was married to Burt Burton and now that she was gone,] more responsibility fell on me. Now it was my turn to milk the cows and see to the chores, which were chickens, cows, pigs, ducks, geese. Dad did the feeding in winter, but he would not milk the cows. In summer the ducks and geese took care of themselves. The ducks would lay their eggs up the river and the geese around the pond. The little ducklings and goslings were so cute, but we kept away from Papa Goose. He would come after us, flapping his wings. In winter, milking cows was not too bad until the barn burned down, then the cows had to be tied to the fence out in the snow and cold. Those poor cows and the milker, we were chilled clear through on the cold mornings when it dropped below zero, and it was “get out and milk before school.” In the summer we had to get the milk cans out by 7:00 a.m. for the milkman, and the cows out by 7:30 when Pete came by to get them, or I had to take them to the pasture myself which happened quite often. But we seemed to take things in our stride. What had to be done was done without a fuss.

As time passed, people began to come from Ogden. They were Ma’s relations, bringing their tents to camp for a few weeks. That’s how the barn was set on fire. When the church bell and the school bell were both ringing, that meant fire somewhere in the town. This day they rang twice. I had walked the mile uptown to the store to get Ma some needed groceries, and while there I went to see the place that had burned, a log house, not too badly damaged. There were no fire engines or hose at that time, just ditch water and a bucket brigade. On the way home the bells began to ring again. A wagon loaded with men passed me, horses galloping. They yelled at me to say, “Your barn is on fire.” I took off on a run, stopping in at Grandpa’s with my heavy load. I started down the road hoping someone would pick me up; instead, they yelled at me to go back and get some buckets, which I did. Mary said they had to be back by milking time. Down the road I went on the run. Just as I got there, the fire had spread over the whole barn. By the time the water had got down the ditch and a bucket line formed, it was too late, but they did save the granary, the chicken coop, and the little outhouse. After all was over, I took the buckets back and got my groceries. That was one night that I didn’t sleep much. I kept getting up to see if all was well. Two little boys, age five and six, had found some matches, and because of the fire bells, I presume, thought they would have a fire also. So not knowing what they were doing, they made a little pile of straw out by the straw stack which was close to the barn, and got a big fire going. It spread, of course. The five-year-old ran to his mother, and the six-year-old ran and hid. Poor kid, he dared not show up. He wasn’t found for two hours or more. He was as far back as he could get, under the loading table of the grist mill.

As time went on, more and more people came to the grove in the summers. It was a nice cool, clean place to camp or picnic. At first it was all free. Ma sold ice cream and candy which helped her, but I think that changed to an entrance fee, or rent. That was after I left home.