Monday, February 28, 2011

My Life Mostly in Cameron County-Frances Schwab Murray, 1966-Part 3

Before I jump to Part 3, I want to mention that, just before posting Part 2, I got the urge to research someone mentioned in that post.  When I typed from the original papers, I wasn’t really focused on content.  I just wanted to get it done as quickly as possible.  But, a little section caught my eye when I was finally focused on content.  My grandmother mentioned her Uncle George’s son Howard (Stuart) being buried in Michigan.  I thought I might be able in get confirmation of dates or locations in her story.  Off to Google I went.  Search results led me to hypothesize her naming error for River Rouge.  Using River Rouge and the Ford plant references, I went to Google maps and found a large cemetery, Woodmere, instead of Wildwood. Turns out Woodmere has amazing records.  I found a record for Howard Stuart, age 1 year, 9 months, 2 days, born in Pennsylvania, residence on Peterson Street, who died of scarlet fever in 1906.  My genealogical motto:  Trust, but verify.

Earlier posts in this series:


Part Three:

I often wonder where the water is that we had 60 or more years.  In the creek it was bank-to-bank below our house.  A sawmill down from our house, across the creek had a spillway or boom built; the river was always filled with logs.  We kids used to cuff them although we were forbidden to do so.  They call it log rolling now.  One day I jumped onto a log and missed it, but hit a board on the boom.  It had a big spike in it.  It went clear through my foot.  One of the sawmill men came over, pulled me off.  Away I went crying, straight to my grandfather who always took care of all our sores or cuts.  He poured turpentine in that hole.  I can feel it yet.  And a slice of salt pork over the hole.  So I hobbled around on my heel for days.

Earlier, in the house where Alice was born, we had some little things happen, such as when Jennette took the shears and cut six-inch slits in a stand cover in our bedroom.  Here both she and I did our best to blame Walter Olkosky (the American Legion is named for him.  He was the first Cameron County boy killed in WWI).  His folks called him Waddick, Polish for Walter.  One time Mother had put her crock of cream and freshly churned butter in the springhouse.  We all went either to Cameron or to visit Grandmother Schwab, it was on a Sunday.  When we got back, Waddick had mixed sand in the butter and cream and dumped out all the pans of milk.  Boy, his dad almost killed him.  They lived across the road from us.  Several days later Jennette and I had a play house we took him to (he was one year younger than me) and fed him soap suds until he vomited. 

That cemetery I spoke of was where all the small pox victims were buried during the epidemic.  Several of mother’s uncles are buried there—Greenalch boys.  Bradytown was on top of the hill, so named for Andrew Brady.  There was lots of houses and a school house later.  Lena Leckner was the first teacher up there that I remember. (we all went to Cameron School, walked all the way, no nice roads like they have today, snow waist deep for us younger kids)  Mother’s Uncle Bill Greenalch and wife Julia ran the big boarding house.  Had lots of miners staying with her in Bradytown first called Mt. Hope.

We had a store and Post Office in Canoe Run.  The passenger trains used to stop four times a day.  Fred Webster was the manager of the store and ran the Post Office , too.  The coal company had an office in one side of the building and the company doctor, who used to come one or two days a week, had an office on the other side.  It was one story high, but larger than Joe Olivetti’s ground floor.  There was lots of nice homes in Canoe Run and we kids had great times there.  The oldest Minnow boy, Andrew, was hurt and died a few days later.  We used to swing on the steel cables.  He hit his head.  His sister Anna blew off several fingers playing with dynamite caps.  They were neighbors of ours.  John Minnow was the youngest of the family.  After we went to Detroit they built a school in Canoe Run in about 1904 or 1905.  Bruce Peterson was the first teacher there.  I wasn’t lucky.  They’d be no school-house in Canoe Run for me. 

When I started to school, we walked to Cameron--one mile-no bus, no cars, no snow plows, no paved roads, no cafeteria.  We carried our lunch in pails which had once held Karo Syrup or 5 pounds of lard, no fancy pail then.  School house was two story high—grades 1-4 downstairs , 5-8 upstairs.  One room, one teacher affair, heated by a pot-bellied stove in the middle of the floor.  No water.  We carried it from the nearby neighbor’s well.  Everyone drank out of the same long-handled tin dipper. Schoolhouse had the little houses out back—left side of field for girls, right side for boys.  This school burned in 1908.  We missed one week of school, but they set up school in the large dance hall of the Knights of Golden Eagle hall.  The floor was big enough to make two large rooms.  They rebuilt in 1909.  The school was a one story, two-room brick affair, heated by a furnace and built by the brick and stone masons—two brothers James and Mike Fitzpatrick.  It was torn down and the ground sold to Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Schreffler who built their home on the land. 

When we lived across from the coke ovens there was a family lived along side of us, only one small child.  He used to lick his wife and she’d come to Mother crying and black-eyed.  One night he was beating her terrible. Mother went to the boarding house where a construction gang was staying.  They were building the new coal tipple and crusher.  All from Ridgway Murphy & Hyde Company.  Bill Leilous was among the gang, they got a rope and went after him, pulled him from under the bed and took him down to the crusher scaffolding and was going to hang him.  My grandfather chased them away with a shotgun.  He was the night watchman at the plant.  That’s the last time we ever knew that man to hit his wife.  That’s when Aunt Mellisa met Bill.  They were married two years later. 

My grandparents Stuart [ed. note: aka Stewart] ran the boarding house in Canoe Run, next door to where Dad built our house. Grandfather did all the oven watching.  Baked their own bread, rolls, pies and cakes in the big oven.  It was a big affair.  What good times we used to have there in that big place.  Grampa, or Pap (and Mam) as we called them until I was grown, Pap played the fiddle (he never said violin), Uncle Charlie the banjo.  Aunt Mellisa and Esther, the piano.  All were beautiful singers.

It’s a wonder some of us kids weren’t killed as we climbed and roamed over the oven tops—up the steps to the top of the high crusher where the coal buckets came down their wire and dumped ore as we sneaked into the tipple on top of the mountain to try to sneak a ride in the coal-filled buckets.  It was in this same crusher and tipple that Mr. C.J. Goodenough of Emporium and Billie Nunn was trapped when they tried to break the frozen coal.  Mr. Goodenough went through with only scratches, but Billie was heavier and got stuck when almost to the bottom and suffocated.  That happened after we came back from Michigan, must have been around 1910 or so.  Everybody in Cameron went to help remove the body.  It took hours to get Billie out.  The men worked by lantern light.  The coke ovens was no longer running.  They were dismantling the tipple and crusher and so there weren’t many men working in Canoe Run by then.  Billie Nunn was a brother-in-law of Harry Morse.  He left four small children.  The men had to work by lantern light.  Held service for Billie in the Lodge room upstairs of the KGE (ed. note: Knights of the Golden Eagle) hall at Cameron.

The little dinky engine went within 30 feet of our front door when we lived in the Block Row.  In 1917 Neva Jenks and Goldie Segee’s sister worked as bookkeepers there.  Later on they both were hurt, not serious, when the engine ran away and jumped the track down by the Valley Hotel.  Henry Morris was the engineer and his son Harry, fireman. 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

My Life Mostly in Cameron County-Frances Schwab Murray, 1966-Part 2


As a fair warning, this is the second of seven parts.  I want to to keep the length of each post manageable for readers.


A year later Alice was born.  Dr. Smith of Emporium was Mom’s doctor, her first doctor at childbirth.  We lived in that house until Alice was about 2-1/2 years old, when Dad and Uncle Alfred built our house next door to the big boarding house that Grandpa Stewart ran, just above the coke ovens.  We lived there until 1906 when we moved to Detroit, Michigan.  We went by train to Buffalo, caught a boat and sailed the lake to Detroit.  It was my first sight of a big boat and water everywhere.  I was a nosy kid and had to explore the workings of the boat.  Mother missed me and with the sailors’ help, where did they find me, but down in the engine room watching those big wheels turn.  I’d never saw an indoors toilet before either until on that boat.  Every time you sat down water rushed up so you can imagine how many times Lake Erie rushed up and washed me. 

This being the day after Halloween 1966, it brings back memories of Oct. 31, 1906 in Michigan.  A gang of us kids went out--at that time it was all tricks, no treats--upset an outhouse.  The poor Italian fellow when it went over—his yells.  We lit out as fast as we could run and crawled under someone’s porch as the cops were hot on our trail.  That was down near the River Rouch [ed. note-Rouge] where the Ford Motor plant is now built. 

At that time, 1906, that big field was our playground.  We lived on Peterson Street.  My grandparents lived on Homels Street-the alley separated the two houses.  One day a bunch of us kids set out to see the Wildwood Cemetery [ed. note-Woodmere Cemetery] where Uncle George’s son Howard was buried.  A couple of the kids who lived on Peterson Street, were along.  There I saw my first vault and crematory.  Boy, what a scare.  Us kids watched as they put a body in a big pan and pushed it into the furnace.  As the heat increased, the body began to sit up.  When it moved, so did us kids and I know I never went back there again. 

We spent a lot of our time watching the soldiers as they drilled and paraded at Ft. Dearborn.  My dad worked in the tunnel that was being put under the Detroit River.  Uncle Howard Burlingame was the Super on that job.  He was Aunt Alice Clark’s first husband.  When the job was done, Dad went back to Pennsylvania.  He was working in Idamar, PA digging coal so in Jan 1907, Mother and us 5 kids, with Uncle Ed, left for PA too.  We went by train through that tunnel that Dad helped to build.  We stayed a short time with Aunt Jennie and Uncle Fred until our furniture came. 

We moved into one of the houses in the Block Row.  There, in May 1907, my youngest brother was born.  Dr. Walter Bush was Mom’s doctor and my brother was the first baby he brought after coming to Cameron County.  A few days after the baby was born, all 5 of us kids came down with whooping cough.  The hired help (our Aunt Esther) left, and when the baby was 10 days old, he got the whooping cough.  I slept on a cot in Mom’s room and I had to jump up and stick my finger down his throat to get the phlegm up.  Boy, what a job for a 10 year old kid.  Then a few days later we 5 kids came down with the mumps, so Dad had to come home as I didn’t dare go near the baby.  Dad was like a bull in a china shop.  He and I cooked some rice for our supper.  I don’t remember how much we used, but as it cooked, we bailed it out of the kettle with the dipper.  When it was done, we had a dishpan full.  Dad carried most of it out to the pig. 

Those were the days—no running water, outhouses, oil lamps, coal or wood stoves to heat those old houses.  The snow blew in on the floor through the doors and windows.  Bread froze, so did the water pail. 

Dan O’Brian, big lumberjack, he as the tallest and biggest man I had ever seen, in 1907.  He used to come to Schwab Bros. store, in Cameron, from his shanty house way up in the hills, to buy his groceries.  We kids were scared to death of him, as tales of his fighting powers were known by all the folks in Cameron.  He always wore a sleeveless jacket made from a cowhide, fur side out.  Summer or winter.  And a coonskin cap, but a tailless one.

That spring Dad and us kids were planting potatoes.  We’d had an early thaw, lots of snow and the early rains had the nearby creek running bank-to-bank with cold, muddy water.  The neighborhood kids, Yuharts, were throwing sticks in the stream.  Anne was about four years old.  She slipped into the stream and was washed down by us.  Dad and I together got her out.  Dad rolled her over a barrel.  Boy, did the water ever come out of her.  No first aid as we know it now.  When Charles was about 2 years old, we moved across the river at the mouth of Mooley Hollow.  That’s the house where Mary was born in 1910 and Evelyn in 1912.  The house was across the road from where Jack Stuart lives now.

One spring day shortly after Mary was born, Dad and several others and I went berrying in Russel Hollow for raspberries.  I stepped over an old log and a rattler hit.  He missed my leg, but its teeth got caught in my woolen skirt.  Boy did I ever move and yelled “I’m bit”.  Dad yelled stand still, but I took off for home and I could run.  The road out of the Hollow was fenced off and had a fence across the road, leading to the main road into Hunts Run.  When I got to that fence, I didn’t wait to open it up, but went over the top.  Somewhere in that leap I lost the snake.  Boy was Dad mad when he caught up with me, but I had only the yellowish-green marks on my skirt to show where it had hit.  My berry-picking was over for that day.  The summer before Evelyn was born I almost got it again while picking berries in Mooley Hollow.  I had come home for a couple of days.  I was working in Driftwood at Riley’s Hotel.  I had worn Dad’s Wisconsin boots.  They were high top boots (leather) and came up to my knees.  That’s what saved my leg as I stepped over a log in a dried up creek bed.  I was carrying a revolver, so I shot it.   

Up to this time, in the same hollow, there was some of the remains of a lumber camp.  Us kids used to play around them.  One day the three Lupole kids, my brother Nelson, and myself went up the hollow to pick gooseberries and my dog Shep followed.  As usual he went off after a squirrel.  Pretty soon we started for home, but he didn’t come to our call until we were pretty well in sight of home.  He came tearing down the road followed by an old mother bear.  He’d been chasing her cubs.  Boy, Shep was scared.  He’d run between my legs and down I’d go.  That old bear followed us clear to Walker’s house.  Good thing their place was fenced in.  We sure did a quick crawl under that fence and the old bear turned back.  I was about 13 at that time.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

My Life Mostly in Cameron County, Part I


Well, I’ve transcribed almost everything.  But I do need to do some editing.  I found multiple drafts so I need to organize much of the information before I can post it.  I’ll retain my grandparents natural syntax and grammar because it’s essential to their story-telling style.

But I do have some ready.  Here’s Part One of:

My Life Mostly in Cameron County
Frances Schwab Murray, 1966

I am of Swiss, English, Scotch and Welsh descent.  My father, Alex Schwab was a full blood Swiss.  Mother’s father was Scotch and English, her mother English and Welsh.  My father was born in Siselen, Berne, Switzerland.  My mother was born in Canoe Run, Cameron County in 1876.  Dad was born in 1871.  They were married in Cameron, PA August 7, 1893.  I was born August 13, 1896 at Rathbun, PA, the second oldest as my sister, Jennette was born August 4, 1894.  Like Abe Lincoln, I was born in a log cabin, as Dad was working in the woods.  Back in 1923 or 1924 part of that cabin was still standing.  When I was 6 months old, my parents moved back to Cameron where my sister Margaret was born in 1898 and 35 years later I attended her at the birth of her youngest daughter, Jean. 

One of my first remembrances is of the dolls Uncle John had bought for Jennie and I.  China dolls, one dressed in red and the other in blue satin.  We had them in the go-cart and Margaret, who was just beginning to walk, pulled the dolls out of the cart.  Both were broken beyond repair and Jennie and I were heartbroken. 

When I was about 4 years old, while feeding the chickens, I fell on a sharp can I was carrying the feed in, cut my chin open and had a bad cut above my eye.  I sure did some yelling.  Aunt Esther and Winne Shearer helped Mom to care for the cuts.  I’ve still got the scar to show this happened.  It happened in the house where Margaret was born and now that house has long been torn down. 

Dad and Mom moved to Weedville.  It was there Nelson was born in 1900.  I remember the house and time very well.  Mom had no doctor, but great-grandmother Costello was her midwife.  Dad worked in the coal mines, timbering the tunnels.  Nelson was about 6 months old when they moved to Canoe Run in a house across from the coke oven.  We didn’t live there very long and moved across the creek to the little bungalow where Alice was born. 

When we lived across from the ovens, Dad had a lumbering job and Mom boarded the men.  They slept in the house next door to our house.  The three McKay boys worked for Dad.  They used to catch rattlesnakes. And sell them to carnivals and shows.  They had boxes with glass tops so you could see them.  One day they had nine in a couple of the boxes.  One of the old teamsters was afraid one of us kids might break the glass and get bitten so while all the men was at work he took an ax and as they crawled out, he killed them one by one.  There was a terrible row when the McKays got back that night.  Later years one of the McKay brothers was bit by a rattler and died. 

It was in the bungalow at the foot of the hollow that Dad woke me up, sometime during the night and said I have to get up and dress, go for a neighbor, Mrs. Cordright, who was also a midwife. Because my mother was awful sick and needed help.  I was afraid to go as it was about ½ mile from us, past the cemetery where the small pox victims were buried, and trees had grown up on all sides of the road.  But barefooted and in the dark, away I ran.  About halfway there I fell over something that I thought was human.  This made me run all the faster until I came to Mrs. Cordright’s house, opening the door, I fell headfirst inside.  Mrs. Cordright came out in the hall in a nightgown and cap with lighted lamp.  I thought my lungs would burst.  I couldn’t speak for sometime.  She hurried and dressed and with lighted lantern we went down the road only to meet her red and white heifer coming up the road.  That’s what I had fallen over.  I can laugh about it now, but believe me, I sure was one scared kid. 


NEXT WEEK:  Part Two of My Life Mostly in Cameron County-Frances Schwab Murray, 1966 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Swiss Family Schwab


So when did the genealogical research seed get planted?  It goes back to 1975.  I was in Venice, Italy on a semester abroad program and took a weekend trip Switzerland.  As part of that trip I wanted to stop in Siselen, near Berne.  I am one-eighth Swiss and knew my great-great grandparents, John and Mary Schwab, had emigrated from Siselen with their family in the late 1800s.  I went, not knowing much more than a few names of dead relatives.  Siselen is a small town and it took no time to locate the main cemetery.  I was startled to walk among the headstones and see so many with the last name Schwab and with such old dates.  Even at the time, I wished I had done more research so perhaps I would have been able to identify the graves of relatives—and, who knows, even meet a distant cousin.

The following year I asked my grandmother to record our genealogy for me.  And later I received notebooks of historical remembrances she wrote down for the family and for the Cameron County Historical Society.  I don’t know if she ever gave her notes to the Historical Society, but I do know I was grateful I had made the request.  That was the year my grandmother died.  Little did I know it would take me almost 35 years to follow-through.

The first phase of this blog will be my grandparents’ remembrances of Cameron County, Pennsylvania, where they spent most of their lives.  Much of it will be information the Historical Society, long-time residents and anyone who enjoys first person history would appreciate.  I will be transcribing their comments, grammar and all, with editing done only when absolutely necessary. 

After that, I’ll begin telling the stories of my research on specific family lines.  My goal when I started a year ago was to trace each line back to Europe.  If I complete that task, who knows, maybe I’ll make a trip back to Siselen with a little more knowledge.