The Marble Top Washstand Tells its Story
After ninety years of living in this community I have seen many changes and have helped change many things.
The story as told by The Marble Top Washstand, corresponds with
the happenings and changes in my memories of bygone days of this community.
H. R. Stevenson
The Marble Top Washstand Tells its Story
When I started remembering I was put up for sale by a Lutheran schoolteacher at New Wells, Mo. in early 1880. The highest bidder was Alpheus C. Stevenson and his wife Julia M.(Boren). They were married the 6 January 1876. After a couple of years as Post Master at Neely's Landing, they moved to Pocahontas for a year or two. They came back to the farm west of New Wells on Muddy Shawnee Creek, where he had dug a cistern and started building a house the first year they were married.
I was handled with great care, placed gently into the wagon and taken to my new home. Here I was out in the guest bedroom of the house. There were two other bedrooms on the east side of the house that joined the kitchen on the north. These rooms and the kitchen were two sides of the living room, which had a fireplace in the center of the room. The house was made entirely of Poplar lumber.
When I came into the family they had a little baby girl, Myrtle. She was a retarded child. Then the 2nd day of January 1885 Hugh Roy was born. In 1889 Edward A. was born. He only lived about a month. They had twin boys born dead while they lived in Pocahontas.
1890 Family History
This is all taking place on the Alexander K. Stevenson farm. A.C. was living on the north half of the farm. There were five boys and two girls in A.K.'s family. The twins Amos and Theodore were the oldest, then A.C., Hugh and Lowery, Jadddmima Jane (Jennie) and Rosa were the girls.
Theodore and Amos went to Kansas to farm soon after the Civil War. Lowery had married an Illinois girl and came back to run his Dad's (A.K.) farm. Hugh was teaching school. The girls, Jennie and Rosa were living with their mother and dad in the old log house. Lowery built a little frame house to live in when he took over the farm. Elizabeth, A.K.'s second wife was a Clodfelter. Her dad Phillip came to live with them in the old log house. His room was on the northwest corner of the log house. Amos Myer built a flue in the corner of the room. He said when he was laying brick the old man would have his trunk open and one little compartment was full of gold coins. Phillip died 11 Mar 1881. Alexander K. died 16 December 1881. This left the two girls and their mother in the old log house.
Jennie married John T. McNeely 12 December 1889 and moved to Leemon, MO. By this time Lowery realized that he was going to have to make a change. His wife wasn't a farm girl and she was never going to get along with this situation. He and Amos made a deal to trade places. Amos came back to Missouri, Lowery went to Kansas. This move was not made across country in wagons like the first move to Kansas. It went by boat to St. Louis and by rail the rest of the way. Hugh drifted into Texas around Galveston, Lowery soon joined him there.
Amos and Lowery's trade was made right after Jennie's wedding. When Amos came in from Kansas his mother and Rosa were living in the log house. He moved into the house that Lowery vacated. They lived like this until Rosa was fatally burned. They were washing clothes and she got too close to the fire under the kettle and her long dress caught fire. She died the next day. This left Grandma alone, she had always taken care of herself and all the others that were in her care. Now she was getting old. Amos moved into the log house to take care of her. Amos' wife and three girls began to take care of one old lady that had been taking care of herself for eighty years. She just couldn't sit and watch others do what she had been doing all her life. She finally went to Leemon and lived with Jennie until she died on 28 November 1901. This leaves Amos in charge of the old home place, which H. R. Stevenson would buy in years to come.
A. C. Stevenson Family 1890
Another son was born in September 1891. Arthur Lang was the second boy of the children that lived.
The family had planned a trip to Illinois in the fall of 1892. Lang was a baby, Myrtle would be left in dare of Grandpa and Grandma Boren. This was the year of the election of Cleveland and Stevenson. A.C. cast his vote in New Wells the first thing in the morning. Isac Query, an old bachelor, was going to take care of the place while they were away. He drove them to Wittenberg in a wagon, where they boarded a skiff powered by two oars in the hands of Mr. Tucker. He crossed the river to Grandtower. There they got on board a train for East St. Louis the next morning. At Fountain Bluff, not far from Grandtower the party was transferred to a through train. This train had the election news. There was an old fellow sitting on the edge of a barrel at the station, when he heard the news, he threw up his hands and yelled, "Cleveland is elected" and fell backwards into the barrel. He had probably been celebrating all nite, the news was all he was waiting for.
From East St. Louis they boarded a train for Donaldson and Greenville, Illinois. There were several people they wanted to visit but the main attraction was the Golden Wedding of Ahimas Stevenson, he was A.C.'s uncle. Others to visit were the Hughies. Julie, the daughter of Alexander by his first wife, had gone to Illinois after the war and married Guss Hughie. Her brother Linley went through the war clear to the siege at Vicksburg. When being mustered out in St. Louis, he took Smallpox and died. Buried at Old Apple Creek.
The trip and wedding celebration was quite an event for the Stevenson family, especially for Roy. He would be eight years old in a couple of more months. He was right at that age of acting up, company or no company. Everyone was sitting around a big fireplace. Roy had teamed up with a boy about his age. They were back in the corner of the room shooting paper wads into the fire. There was an old grandma sitting at the corner of the fireplace. She had just loaded her pipe, with the tobacco packed in tight she dipped it into the ashes for a light. The hot ashes made a nice little upside cone on top of the pipe. As the smoke curled out of the pipe and drifted towards the fire, the boys were giggling. The paper wads were directed towards the fireplace. Roy was chewing the wads, the other boy shooting them. The pipe was getting pretty well fired up when a wad passed right over the top of the pipe and took the stack of ashes. The old lady didn't even notice that anything had happened. The boys had to leave the room to keep from disturbing the company with laughter.
When the family got back from Illinois it wasn't long until Isac Query died. Bats, The family mare had a white colt that would be named Major. The colt was dropped in the north pasture about where the old school house used to be. She never got up and died the next day. It was Roy's job to raise the colt. This he did and named him Major. He grew to be the family buggy horse for years.
Maple, the last child was born 12 March 1894. Hiram E. Boren, Julia's Dad died 20 February 1898. The Spanish-American War broke out which didn't affect the Stevenson family any more than did the Gold Strike in Alaska or the Klondike.
1900 Hugh Roy
The one of the family that plays a part in my history. Roy was seven years old when he started to school at Shawneetown Public School. He was seventeen in the Spring of 1902. He had made up his mind to go to the Normal School at Cape Girardeau come September. The thing to do was to earn some money through the summer. He started working for Walter Knox about the 15th of March which was the end of the school year. He contracted to work four months for $50. Five dollars was spent about the first month to get his teeth fixed. He had the privilege of a horse on the weekends if he wanted one. The work was general farm work.
When September came he had $35 to start school in Cape Girardeau. This was used to pay his tuition and board. His dad would send him money every so often.
When two years had passed, the spring of 1904 he got his teacher's certificate. Applied for the school at Wittenberg and was hired to teach the year, 1904-1905.
The World Fair was to be a big attraction the Summer of 1904. It was in St. Louis and the students at Cape could go on a reduced fare on the Frisco Railroad which had just been completed from St. Louis to Cape Girardeau. The school had scheduled a week at the fair, special train tickets and a place to board close to the Tower Grove Station and Forest Park where the Fair was. There were about fifteen boys and twenty girls in the group that went on the first trip in June. Roy had finished two years of school, had gotten his teaching certificate and was pretty sure of getting the school at Wittenberg.
While in school the two years his interest wasn't all in books. He had met a girl that he thought was pretty nice. Lulu Gladish was the girl. She also had her certificate to teach. Everything seemed set to go to the fair. Roy and Lulu were in the first group that went. Whether it just happened that way or whether there was a little planning ahead. Anyway an enjoyable time was had by all.
The summer of 1905 A.C. built a new house on the site of the old house. The kitchen of the old house was turned one quarter around, the old house torn down and a two story house put in its place. I was put in the northeast corner of A.C. and Julia's bedroom. Here I would stay until October 1923.
Hugh Roy's Courtship and Marriage
After the house was finished in the fall, Roy went back to school. Lulu taught Big Spring School, it was close to her homeplace. They were both back in school for another two years. They both graduated in the class of 1907. Roy got the school at Shawneetown, Mo. Lulu got a school at Hayti, Mo. This was the fall of 1907. There was a general understanding that sometime in the future they were going to get married, but nothing was agreed on as to whether they would go on teaching or what they would do for a lively hood. Christmas week his Uncle Amos, who was living on the old home place, told him he had a place out at Farmington that he was going to move to. Roy had the first chance to buy the place. He told Roy to make up his mind and let him know as soon as possible. Roy got busy and wrote Lulu to see if it was agreeable with her. By the 25th of January 1908 the deed was signed over to H.R. Stevenson. The year 1837 Alexander K. bought the farm from his Uncle Robert McFarland. Now it would stay in the family for another generation. Uncle Amos had a sale in March just about the time school was out. Roy made a trip to Hayti before Lulu's School was out, they had to set a wedding day. The only thing that had been said about dated in past talks was, Lulu said she didn't dare when she got married, just so it was on a Wednesday in June or a Wednesday in October. Everything was right for a June wedding. The 25th was on Wednesday so that was the day set for the wedding. The rural telephones had not been installed yet, there were no automobiles nor electric lights. The wedding was to take place at the John Gladish farm west of Jackson about five miles. Roy was to get the preacher and be there with the best man. Sunday before the wedding, Roy knew by the grapevine, that Rev. Killough would be preaching at Pleasant Hill in Fruitland. He was going to see Lulu that day. On the way he could make the arrangements with the preacher. Old Major and the buggy was his means of transportation. When he rounded the corner at Sawyer School north of Fruitland, he could see the preacher in his buggy at the Tant place. By the time he got there the preacher was coming out of the lot gate on to the road. Roy figured this was a real streak of luck. He told the preacher his plans. The Reverend assured him that he would be there at six o'clock in the evening to perform the ceremony. Roy always thought this was better than having to hunt the preacher out of a crowd at the church.
The morning of the 25th Roy hitched Old Major to the buggy and went to Jackson, got a shave and hair cut and picked up the marriage license at the Court House. He got out to the Gladish place in time to change into his wedding suit. Lang had come down in his buggy. He was the best man and Edith Alter was the bride's maid.
The wedding was performed in the south room of the farm house which was the parlor, and was used only on special occasions. The guests consisted mostly of Lulu's relatives and friends. After the wedding ceremony everyone went into the dining room, where there was a large cake and all kinds of things to eat. A good time was had by all and by eleven o'clock everyone was bedded down for the night.
The next morning the boys' buggies were hitched up early for the trip back to Shawneetown. Edith would ride with Lang and would be at the Stevenson's for the reception that was waiting them there. When they arrived in the afternoon of Thursday, there were more of Roy's friends and relation to get acquainted with. Edith stayed another day then Lang took her to Wittenberg to catch the train back to St. Louis.
Starting Another Generation
I'll have to keep in contact with the Roy Stevenson family. He will have a great grandson that will play a part in my future. I have referred to the old log house before. Now that is where the Roy Stevensons started this generation. A history of this old log house might be of interest here.
Robert McFarland married Agnes Fleming. She was the oldest daughter of Mitchell Fleming. James Stevenson II married Jane Fleming. He was living on Blue Shawnee Creek north of Pocahontas. Mitchell Fleming gave Agnes 80 acres of land on Muddy Shawnee Creek. Bob didn't want his house down in the bottom land, so he bought ten acres from the Wilson track. This put the house on high ground. The house was a big two story log structure. It was built in the time of 1826.
The families in this vicinity at that time were: Phillip Clodfelter, Anderson Mitchell, James Stevenson II, Mitchell Fleming John Garner, Thomas Wilson, Zenus Ross, John Wallace, Hugh Hill, and the Query Family. These people all came into Missouri from North Carolina and Virginia, by way of Kentucky and Tennessee. Some of them came to get land for payment for their service in the war. This land was the Louisiana territory west of the Mississippi River.
The log house was lived in by Bob McFarland for about ten years. By 1837, Alexander K. Stevenson had married one of Hugh Hill's girls. The Illinois land fever was beginning to spread. McFarland was going to Illinois. Alexander K. bought his farm. He had two children, a boy and a girl, by this marriage. The boy, Linley, the girl, Julia. His wife lived only a few years. Then Alexander K. married Elizabeth Clodfelter, a daughter of Phillip. This marriage started the family that kept the farm in the family for over a hundred years.
Roy was the last one to raise a family in the old log house. Roy's dad was born there, and all of Roy's children were born there. Roy G., Lars Meredith, John A., and the twins Roberta Louise and Robert Louis. The children were all born by February 1915. Things were on the move. Telephones were the thing everyone was talking about them and with them. Roy helped install the first switchboard at New Wells. Lang and Maple were going to college by this time. Roy bought a 1910 Ford car in July 1911. Julia's mother Caroline Boren was getting too old to live alone, she came to live with them. Roy taught school at Shawneetown for 4 years, then he taught Pocahontas School for two years.
By 1916 the first world war was brewing. When the U.S. got into it Lang and Maple went in. When the war was over Lang didn't come back to the farm. He was teaching school and finally went to dental school. He married Lucille Chiles and settled in Warrensburg, MO. Maple came back to the farm and he and Roy ran both farms together. They bought a Moline tractor in 1918.
February 1921 Julia's mother Caroline died. She had lived almost a century. Now there will be no more stories to listen to when her nephew, John Trickey, a Civil War veteran, comes to visit.
A.C. and Julia were getting old and they decided that they were not capable of taking care of Myrtle. It was decided to take her to Marshall, a state institution for feeble minded. She died September 1932 and was brought to Apple Creek Cemetery for burial.
Maple married Nora Frizzell in October, 1923. He and Roy were running both farms together. A.C. had bought the house in Pocahontas they had lived in before the previous Spring. When Maple moved after he got married, A.C. moved to Pocahontas. I was taken out of their bedroom on the farm and put in the southeast corner of their bedroom in the house in Pocahontas. This was going to change me from country to city, small town anyway. Telephones were pretty well everywhere. Model T Fords were numerous. When an aeroplane flew over everyone broke their necks to get out and see it. Indoor plumbing and electric lights were not yet a thing that people had even in the town of Pocahontas. I was still used for what I was built for. The old wood stoves still cooked the meals and warmed the house. Radio and aeroplanes are the big talk at this time.
Maple stayed on the farm two years. When Highway 25 was graveled in 1925 he got a job on the crane that loaded the trucks. When the job was finished in the fall he moved to Cape and worked for the Marquette Cement Company operating a crane.
Roy had 4 boys big enough to work by that time. It took lots of deciding and talk, as to whether stay in the old log house or move into the newer house. He was going to run both farms. In the Spring of 1926 he made the move.
The old log house had seen a hundred years of sheltering the families of the McFarlands and Stevensons. A new house was taking its place. This would be the last family to occupy the house. However there was an old fellow, Mr. Harding, who lived in the big living room for 3 or 4 years.
My Stay In Pocahontas
The folks started our with a cow, chickens and a garden. There were two big cherry trees in the yard, a big mulberry close to the barn. Apricot, peach, apple, and plum trees in the chicken yard. White grapes grew on the garden fence that led to the two hole shack in the corner of the garden. Julia didn't care how much fruit the grand kids ate, but leave the white grapes alone.
Roy's children were starting to high school. Gladish went two years to Pocahontas. Drove a buggy or rode a horse. He kept the horse in the barn here on bad days. By 1926 Meredith and John were ready for high school. Fruitland had a four year high
Now that there was almost a daily trip from the farm to Fruitland through Pocahontas. A.C. decided to sell the cow and get his dairy produce from the farm. The chickens were soon disposed of too. It seemed that there was someone stopping by every day through the fall and winter while school was going. Through the winter there was a wagon load of wood brought in from the farm every couple of weeks or so depending on the weather. Many times A.C. would ride back to the farm on the wagon. In the Spring and Summer if there was lots of work going on at the farm and Julia wanted to go up there but everyone was too busy to go after her she would strike out and walk. She never did walk the full five miles, someone would pick her up. Several times she got almost to New Wells.
Julia kept a tolerable close tab on her grand kids. She always wanted to know who their girls were and how they were getting along. Gladish was going to the University at Columbia by 1930. Meredith had typhoid fever in 1927 and missed a year of school. John was going with Grace Englehart. She was teaching school east of Perryville in the Bob Ruely Bottoms the year of 1932 and 1933. John was 21 years old the 24th of February. The following March 14th they were married in Perryville. The license was published in the local Perry County paper which no one took in Cape County. A week after the wedding, Miller, the Frona man that picked up the Stevenson's cream brought the paper to John's mother, sure enough that's who it was. Julia always wondered if they were trying to keep it a secret. A.C. just figured that they were just taking care of their own business. I didn't know at the time that the results of this marriage would land me in California some time in the future.
The big depression of the thirties was in full swing. Gladish married Bessie Noland, she only lived a short while. Then he married Margaret Smith of Farmington, Mo. Roberta married Roy McDowell in October 1935. Meredith joined the Army, the Old Sixth Infantry at Jefferson Barracks in September 1935. Robert joined the Navy in February 1936. Took his boat training ar the Great Lakes training base North of Chicago.
Meredith came in from the Phillipines in September 1938. Helped his dad on the farm that Winter but by Spring his feet were beginning to itch. They were saying, "There's a Gold Mine in the Sky". For him it was the Army Air Corps. In August 1939 he re-enlisted at Scott Field, Il. Rural electricity came into this part of the country in 1937. People were getting electric sweepers and fans and thinking about building a bathroom or a toilet in their house. That was sure something new to me. Where was I going to fit in with this new stuff? I was relieved when it looked like the old folks were not going in for too much of this new fangle stuff. I could still maintain my place in the corner of the room as a necessary item, a marble top washstand.
Robert was still in the Navy. Gladish and Margaret were in Montana. His dad told him if he wanted to run the farm he could or he was going to sell it. They came back to the farm, when Meredith left for the Air Corps. John had lived several different places here in the community. He did a little farming, worked for John Cotner at the sawmill and he did a little trucking. by the time the second world war broke out he was in Fredericktown, an electrician for a lead mining company. He got a job in California in the Navy shipyards when war was declared. They had four children by this time, Donna, Johnnie, Donald, and Robert Roy. The family moved to California.
The folks were getting old, the grand kids were all out of school and going their way. There wasn't much company stopping by. The boys that used to bring a wagon load of wood with a team of mules was now replaced with a truck load twice a winter. The discussions of politics and religion that took place around the fire on a winter afternoon between the mule skinners of the wood wagon and their granddad are heard no more.
Roy McDowell bought the Jessie Johnson farm at Fruitland. Roy and Julia moved there in 1941. Pearl Harbor was hit by the Japs 7th December, 1941, war was declared the 8th of December. This put a bind on everything: gas, food, tires - practically everything was affected.
The old folks took care of themselves through the winter of '41 and '42. In June of 1942 Julia had a stroke. She was taken to the hospital for a week or so, then brought back to Fruitland, at Roy's place, where she died July 11, 1942. A.C. went to Fruitland when Julia went to the hospital and never came back to the house in Pocahontas. He died the following October 1942 in Fruitland.
Estate To Be Settled
There were three children to settle the estate: Roy, Lang, and Maple. They got together and came to an agreement that was satisfactory to all of them. The Boren place, Julia's home place, was sold. In the dividing of things, Roy took the Pocahontas property. The war was in full swing, things at the house in Pocahontas were at a standstill. There were a few pieces of furniture moved out, sold, or given away. No one wanted or seemed to notice the marble top wash stand. Was there really something taking place that I didn't know about?
World War Two Ended August 1945
Things were changing again. This change was getting rid of the ration stamps. If it was on the shelf or in stock and you wanted it you could get it if you had the money.
Roy boxed in part of the back porch and built a bathroom in his house in Fruitland. This was completed in October 1945. There hadn't been a thing cone around the house or to the house for two years. I was beginning to wonder what fate had in store for me.
Meredith was the only one of the boys that was in the Armed Forces during the war. He was discharged the last of October and had pulled his trailer to Fruitland and parked it in his dad's yard. A cleanup detail was in order to clean up the place in Pocahontas. Grass and weeds had grown up around the house and it was a potential fire hazard. When the cleaning was finished I was moved to Roy's house in Fruitland. Right into a brand new bathroom. I was beginning to understand why no one wanted me.
I could see that my stay here was going to be different. Things were changing, now I just occupied a space in a room as a table or as any other piece of furniture. My usefulness as I was built for was fading into the past. I was being referred to as an antique. Antique according to Webster is "old, out of date". Right there in front of me was a wash basin that could be filled with hot or cold water with the turn of a faucet, pull the plug and it emptied itself.
It didn't have to be poured into the pot and carried out, the pot dumped itself, too. Over in the corner a bath could be taken, no hot water to be carried in, no wash tub to be carried out of the house at Pocahontas.
This wasn't the only change; this family was made up of one half Stevenson and one half Gladish. Lulu's side of the family were a lively bunch. When they got together as they quite often did, there were stories and jokes you could be sure. When Lulu's Brother Leman came to visit you could be sure of a new joke. Meredith came in with a poem that I thought fit right in with me:
"The Passing of the Pot"
1. As far back as Childhood
as memories may go,
one household vessel greets me
that wasn't meant for show.
2. Beneath the bed twas anchored
where only few could see,
but served the entire family
with equal privacy.
3. Some called the critter Peggy
and some the Thundermug.
And others called it Badger,
a few called it Jug.
4. To bring it in at evening
was bad enough no doubt,
But heaven help the person
who had it taken out.
5. Sometime when in a hurry
to our disgust and shame,
we fumbled in the darkness
and slightly missed our aim.
6. Our big one was enormous
and would accommodate
a watermelon party
composed of six or eight.
7. The special one for company
was decorated well,
But just the same it rendered
That old familiar smell.
8. When nights were dark and rainy
it was a useful urn,
On icy winter mornings
the cold rim seemed to burn.
9. Today this modernism
relieves me a lot,
and only in my vision
I see that homely Pot.
10. At times when things were rushing
and business extra good,
each took his turn a-waiting
or did the best he could.
I could see very plain that my usefulness passed right with the pot. The pot wasn't under the bed, the wash tubs had been replaced with bath tubs and wash machines. They had all been hauled or the dump or were rusting in some old shed. I began to think that it was a streak of luck that I got moved out of the Pocahontas house. Anyway, time is marching on. I'm not being used for what I was built for but I'm still here.
Things were going on just like they did fifty years ago only faster. Television was the thing everyone was talking about after the war. Just like radio was the big thing after the first world war.
The folks got a television in 1955. They celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary the 25th June 1958. The children were all here: Gladish and Meredith from Albuquerque and John's family from California, and Robert's family from Florida. Roberta and her family were here. It would have been hard to get a bunch together like this fifty years ago, scattered the way they were. The rowdy boys now don't shoot paper wads at Grandma's ashes loaded pipe, they do good to keep their mother's cigarette ashes out of their eyes.
Lulu's health began to fail after the anniversary. She had a weak heart and high blood pressure, and an eye disease that took her left eye a few years before she died. She died the 17th day of September 1967.
Robert's daughter Katherine had married Gale Seabaugh. They built a house in the field south of the old house. They looked after the folks with the best of care. When Lulu died Roy went on living in the old house. The termites had it about half eaten up it needed a new roof in 1970. The house wasn't capable of holding a new roof. It was decided in the Spring of 1970 to tear it down and put a mobile home in its place.
Another move; what did fate have in store for me this time? There was more furniture and things in the house than you could possibly get into a mobile home, they came furnished.
Each of the kids personal belongings were separated out. They could do with them what they wanted to. Anything that they wanted of the household things they could take. Everything else wold be sold at public auction. Here I was like the cowboy song goes, "A maverick unbranded on high to get cut in the bunch with the rustics when the Boss of the Riders go by". I could see why no one wanted me, they all had indoor plumbing bathrooms, the works.
Things were listed on the sale bill. I was on the list, not as the serviceable item I was built for, but as an antique. A few days before the sale Donald and Peggy came in from California. When Peggy saw me, a marble top wash stand, she wanted me for her boy Todd, who was H.R.'s great-grandson and A.C.'s great-great grandson. Don and Peggy got their Uncle Herbert and Aunt Agness Englehart to buy it as they had to leave before the sale. On sale day the junk dealers didn't have a chance. I was destined to stay in the Stevenson family. John and Grace were in Florida. They came by and packed me in a U-Haul and took me to California. Here I am in beautiful Denair, California with a great-great grandson of the man that bought me 90 years ago.