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From a typewritten manuscript found at the former home of Joyce Rich
To Elsie Wright Rich
daughter of Emma McKinney Wright.
By Joyce Rich Adams
daughter of Elsie Wright Rich
grand daughter of Emma McKinney Wright
great grand daughter of John McKinney
great great grand daughter of Florilla Walls McKinney
December 25, 1932--
Taking it all in all the world, today was far from rosy. To the anxious parents it could have been lots worse but to the two children it was positively the worst thing to happen to anybody. To have scarlet fever was bad enough, but to spend all of the Christmas vacation and Christmas day in bed with it was even worse. Along in the afternoon when the thrill of the stocking was over and the smell of the roast goose which they couldn’t have, was just a memory they grew restless and second to a surprise, was grandmother Wright telling them a story, "When she was a girl". They were always true and that was what made them so very interesting. Now when a grandmother tells storys for six to twelve years she runs out of important events and happenings and many of the storys have been retold so many times everyone knows them by heart; so as a very extra special story, on a very extra special day, to two very extra special grandchildren and because it ha to be a long long story she told them about the time she was sick and her grandmother told her a long story about when she was a girl and came from the County Antrem Ireland, old country, to America. So sitting herself comfortab1e in a rocker between the two beds Emma McKinney Wright began the story of once upon a time when she ate her fill of butternuts.
Beyond the river lay a low ridge of hills, past them a higher chain lying upon the eastern sky. Dawn was coming with the huge clouds mounting into the sky, dark grey, white their high banks rolled up into the sky, streaks of vermillion pierced thro here and there just as suddenly as they came they stretched out and all the rim of the sky was alight: faster the clouds rolled back the curtain of nite and day sprang forth with the first rays of the sun. All about her rose the growing sounds of the breaking day. The long long nite was over. From her chair by the window where she had been keeping vigil over the sleeping child, last nite so sick this morning so much better, she could see the cows, standing close together at the bar way neath the groove of walnut trees. Soon she would go down and milk them for John had not come home last nite It wasn‘t often now that he stayed away nites now but it was a special job and quite a ways from home. Perhaps he would give up this work all together and stay at ~ home. Certainly he could, the family was gone, there was enough money saved away for the day when he no longer had to work. Maybe now with the coming of spring, maybe how he would give up his masonry and stay at home. The warmth of the morning suns rays on her tired face startled her from her dreaming. All ready there were pools of sunshine on the scrubbed wooden floor and there were dust particles dancing and jumping in the sunlite as it streamed forth thru the window. Florilla stood up shook herself as if shaking would clear her mind of wistful dreaming. Dreams are like cobwebs one brush and there gone. As she got to the door Florilla glanced back at the sleeping child and assured herself that she would sleep till the chores were done. Walking down the lane she looked down into the valley and saw the creek winding itself in and out thru the lowlands peaceful from here, so treacherous when close by its banks, black and muddy with deep whirling pools. Far down the valley the faint barking of the neighbors dog pierced the morning air: there were incessant warblings of the birds and rustlings in the undergrowth. Florilla let down the bars and the cows walked thru and she followed them into the stable with her pails and three legged stool.
"Good morning wee one", said Florilla as she placed a bowl of wars milk and bread besides the bed where a small girl lay stretching away the nites stiffness and blinking in the warm sunlite. "By the way your eating your bread and milk I would say you were better. A good lesson you have had Em even if it was the hard way. Butternuts are rich and are not to pigged down the way you ate them yesterday. A stomach ache you rightly deserved" By this time the child was atop the many colored quilt and was stretching her long lanky legs to the floor.
"No more butternuts for me ever grandmother." "The very thought of them make me sickish. Do you think I could have another bowl of milk and your bread." "Sit where you are Em and we will see if that stays where it belongs you can have more later." Florilla put the top on the churn and sat down beside it. "All right grandmother but please tell me a story, a long one. Yesterday you told me about when you were a young girl and went to Balbay that was when you met grand father wasn’t it? Go on from there grandmother go on from there." Perhaps it was the monotony of the swish swish of the churn, or the loneliness that clamped round her heart and tugged, or perhaps it was because Emma was her favorite grandchild, and in her she saw herself young gay and pretty with all her life ahead of her that made Florilla tell her granddaughter the following story. Why was she telling this girl when she had told no other soul. She had no close friends and her children were gone and the weight of the years the misery she had seen forced her at last to unburden her heart. So to the rhythm of the churn Florilla Walls Mc Kinney unwound this human story, turning back the hands on the clock of History.
IT HAD RAINED It had rained all nite a gentle warm spring rain, kinda drizzling and then a steady down beat but toward morning it let up and stopped all together. The morning air had a clean earthy smell; it was washed clear and cool and the sun cane up in the East just like it did today first piercing the sultry rain clouds and at last succeeding to drive them back and away. The day was warm and a soft wind swayed the branches of the trees which had fresh young wee leaves popped from the swollen buds last nite. They were all crinkly and new. Perhaps the day seemed especially glorious in this spring splendor because I was walking beside my father, my arm on his and we were going to the Weavers house and again perhaps it was because I was wearing a bran new bonnet and I was very proud for I had picked it out all by myself, well almost for father went with me. But he liked it and said I must have it for it matched my eyes. So when father introduced me to the weavers I felt real grown up and said "How do you do father brought me along to help pick out the wool for his new suit." Oh Em but I thot I was a real lady. The weaver laughed as he and father went off to the other side of the room and father turned and gave me a perplexed and surprised look. I suppose it was the first time that he realized I had grown up and was a young lady now, and the thought startled him. However a few minutes later when the weavers son John came in and with such courage and spirit yes and self assuredness came right up to me and said, "Hello my pretty colleen" I was once more a blushing girl. His venturesome boldness startled me for I had been brought up never to over step the conventional rules and always someone introduced me but without any more hesitation and hardly before I knew it myself I was saying, "How do you do and ‘tis a fine morning out isn’t it." Was it or wasn’t it I couldn’t think he had me spell bound his eyes sparkling so was he laughing at me, oh why did I blush so. I looked at father for help but he was busy with the weaver at the other end of the room. "Hi my name is John what is yours?" Re was talking to me again and such a friendly way and oh my but he was good looking. Where dear heaven was my tongue. At last I stumbled out, "My name is Elorilla Walls" "Such a pretty name and rightly named, But I think I will call you Flo. Come outside and see my pigeons Flo". And may the saints be praised I went.
Sitting there on the weavers door step in the morning sun shine with John beside me tossing crumbs of bread at the pigeons by our feet will ever be stamped firm and clear on my memory. The smell of damp grass and earth the spring flowers blooming near by and John laughing and talking, I remember it all. Twas there father found, us. If I expected a reprimand I was sadly disappointed for all father said was: "Hello there John, showing Florilla your pigeons I see." Turning down the path reaching out his arm for mine he said, "Good day Mr Kinney have John deliver that before the month is out." While father was saying that John whispered "Good bye Flo Ill see you again,’ and bless me if I didn’t say "Oh ye John please do." As we turned the corner John was still watching us. He waved a good bye and he was laughing and even at that distance I could see his laughing, Irish eyes. Had my mother been along I would not only have been severely reprimanded but she would have brought to my attention as she so often did that I was a Walls and my uncle was Aucher! Never forget your station in life. 0h, if she had seen me sitting there in the sun feeding pigeons with the weavers son she would have died almost I guess. Father’s "Why so quiet Florilla my girl," snapped me from my thoughts. "I was just thinking" I replied and smiled up at him in a reassuring way. Little did he know hot only were my thoughts but my heart also was back there with the weavers son John.
Did I ever see John after that you ask and well you might. Yes I saw him again and again but never to the knowledge of my parents: then one day late in May I left my home in county Antrem and ran away with John. We were married in Balbay in a small church. John took me home to his home. Oh I was the happiest girl ever but there were times when I would have liked to see my father and mother but they never forgave me for running away with a weavers son. It was fall and a busy time for the McKinneys. I tried to help but I was not used to working and it came hard so hard. Mother McKinney was kind and very patient with me but her ways were far different to those I had seen and been used to in my old home. There were many times Em when my heart ached for home and some one to wait on me. Well I remember one day for example during that winter, Mother McKinney was sick and young Patrick had been grouchy and sniffly all day. Being such a big family the wash had to be done twice and. three times a week and it was up to me to see that it was done. Never had I helped with the wash let alone do it all by myself, but I went at it whole heartedly. It wasn’t long before my back ached, my head was aching, and so did my heart. The sweat was pouring down my face, as were the tears I watched them run down my arms into the suds and that was the way John found me When he bounded into that hot steamy roan. He gathered me into his arms and the wash tub, dirty clothes, cluttered room, aching body were forgotten. The world was right side up again. After that he helped me with the wash and work and all seemed well and easy as long as John was there by my side.
Christmas time was a wonderful time. Such a hurrying and scurrying there was in that little house. Twas there I saw how happy people really were for the first time in my life, but not the last. All the neighbors dropped in singing all the carols and sharing the gifts and eating such a meal. The Irish enjoy any kind o± celebration. For John and I it was a special Christmas for we were going to have a baby very soon. Johns folks were as happy over it as we were. I remember when I told mother McKinney she took me into her big strong arms and cried and father McKinney in his coarse but good way bestowed his blessings. That winter was a hard one, money was scarce and I was sick off and on all winter.
On the first day of February I bore John a daughter, a small squal1ing baby with her fathers eyes and hair. John never left my side until Mother McKinney and her sister hurried him from the room. At first wail of the baby he was back and twas he who told me I had a daughter. "Margaret is her name" I said and went off to sleep with his kiss on my lips and his shinning proud face on my mind and love in my heart.
Time passed quickly with wee Margaret to watch and care for. Then two of Johns brothers left for work in Dublin the work was a little lighter and the house was less crowded. Margaret was a healthy baby and very good, scarcely ever crying. The potato crop failed that year and all Ireland was suffering from starvation. Somehow we made it thru.
When Margaret was two years old on January eight, I bore our first son. Of course John was exceedingly happy now that he had a son. As was the custom the first born be named after the father and so we called him John McKinney. He was christened in the same Irish church where we were married.
Young John was about one year and a half old and Margaret three and a half on the 16th day of July it was hot and I was rocking him neath the shady trees, when John told me the great news that we were sailing to America the following week.
Ill never understand to this very day how I ever dared to plan such a dangerous journey and with John one and a half and Margaret three and half years old but I did. May the good lord have mercy on my soul for saying this but I would never go thru all that ever again.
The day was hot but the breeze from the Ocean was cooling as we stood on the wharf with a small group of people waiting our turn to be rowed out to the boat resting at anchor in the harbor of Balbay Ireland. John said it was a beautiful boat and almost bran new. This was her real first long trip. He said it was a fine ship and so big, why it held 75 more people than the first Mayflower that took the pilgrims to the new world. I remember it as if it were yesterday standing there shivering not from cold oh no, but from fear, fear of what lay ahead. Would we ever see Johns wonderful land of prosperity, could that frail ship tossing ~out on the waves like a cockle shell take us to the land of wonderful things. Would any of us ever see, America? Oh I was scared scared to death and I remember holding the baby closer to my breast as if it could give me the strength I needed to bear this journey. With Johns help we were put into the row boat and with John on my lap and wee Margaret at my side we left the soil of Ireland forever that I knew. I never once looked back not because there was no one there to see us off for Johns mother was ailing and his father too busy hut because I had not the courage to turn and look back instead I watched Johns shoulders straining on the oars keeping in time with the other men. From Johns shinning face I was gathering in store courage for the hard times ahead. In him lay all my strength There were one hundred and seventy fife people on board and all with the same purpose and desire to go to America the land of milk and honey. The day was perfect the sea calm as we sailed out the harbor of Balbay. Little did we suspect this beautiful ripply sea could be a mountain of ugly terrifying water. The people were very friendly and it wasn’t long before I felt more at ease. John was the best baby on the boat and there were five just his age and ten younger. We hadn’t left Ireland a week before John and I had a steadfast friend, his name was Andy. Alone and homesick he spotted our son John and having left a baby brother at home he immediately took young John as a substitute. He played hours with John and Margaret and talked with me. I was just as frightened as Andy but never once let on.
Time passed so slowly food was carefully given out, peoples nerves were edgy there was sickness on board too and the smell of their frver reaked the small place where we all were squeezed into. I had to help in the delivery of two of the six babies born on that trip over. We took turns with the work. I think I really grew up on that trip I know I grew older. I have almost forgotten all that happened while on the high sea but the storm we weathered thru Ill never forget. Even now when the wind pours out from the north and tears at this house the memorys of the storm at sea return to me and haunt me with nitemarish dreams.
The sea was as calm as you please in the morning and we were all on deck. All around us was green water and as far as your eye could see. The furrow the ship made as it plowed on and on was the only break in the monotony of the waves ever slap slapping the sided. Even while we sat there in the suns warm rays for it was so damp down below. I could see white caps darting here and there and the sails seemed bursting full. Looking off toward the north east we saw storm clouds coming from no where, mounting higher and higher faster and faster into the sky. They were dark turbulent clouds ugly and demon like as they rolled over the sky. The sea too responded to the clouds was angry and tossed our ship like a small piece of bark. We were at the mercy of this sea. Of course all were ordered below deck.
There was wailing of children who were frightened by this never before seen storm and deep within all lay that ever smoldering fear. I had not been sea sick: up to this time but when one cant even stand upright because of the severe rocking and pitching of the ship how can you expect your stomach to stay where it belongs. Almost everyone was sick both from the sea and fear. Sickness from fear is far the worse for you remember it always. Even below deck we could hear the wind and water tear at this wee boat and it seemed miraculous that the rafters stayed together. So big this boat looked that day in the harbor and now it seems so small and Helpless.
It lasted two days and on the nite of the second day we all knelt and prayed for deliverance. Had not every lip been praying since this storm broke but huddled together praying aloud seemed stronger and more powerful. It was all we cou1d do: the sick were dying, there were children crying and some too exhausted to cry; all was lost and we just waited. I recall watching the bible John held in his hand open to the 23rd psalm. His face I could not see but I saw the pages move and it came to me that Johns hands were shaking. John strong arrogant courageous John the glib, so possessed of the blarney gift afraid? Oh no, not John. My heart fairly stopped at the thought then, as if feeling my fear he turned and said "Keep your chin up Flo me darling for by all that’s holy there never was a McKinney who was drowned by the sea yet and Ill not be the first." As if speaking those words he gained back the courage what was his and lost for only a minute, and there was the same Irish grin that stole my heart away 3 years and a half ago. In the wee hours of the morning all our prayers were answered. The captain tired older much older than before came to us and said the storm was lessening, we bad ridden out its violence and if all went well today we would reach America after all. Twas then the tears came to all of us and thanks was given up to the Lord. The 23rd psalm which had burned on the dry lips of us all thru out the storm was now sung aloud by everyone of us and Em, your grandfather could never carry a tune. The clouds began to break up slowly at first then rapidly the windy gale lessened, the agitated sea began to calm, the waves not so high, with out such a tearing force. The men went on board to help with the repairs which were many. There was the burial of those who passed on with the storm and as we stood there heads bowed, wind tearing at our skirts the suns first rays penetrated thru. With the coming of the sun the dark clouds seemed to fairly melt arid disappear as if they had no place in the sky now. With the dark clouds went our fear and for the first time I actually longed for and awaited the first sight of America. The idea of living in America seemed brighter twas if a curtain had teen withdrawn and I was eager to start life in this new land, John’s land of milk and honey.
With land ho everyone came up on deck and all searched for the first glimpse of shore. That first sight that welcome sight that sight which had been long awaited for. Having been tossed off the course by the storm we had to sail down the coast for three days before we entered the harbor of New York.
It was a sorry looking lot that went ashore that cold November day. The ships food had been nip and tuck and these men had missed their bread, ale fresh meat amid most of all their potatoes. We women were pale from lack of sun and proper food and perpetual tiredness. There were goodbyes said and promises to look them up or someone they knew and so with our small bag of belongings John, Margaret and young John and I made our way to the address his uncle had given him
Any home would have been a haven of rest and the jovial smiling face of Mrs. MacClarren looked good to me. We ate our first real meal and at a table since we had left Balbay and our first meal in this land of America. Patrick MacClarren’s ale made John very talkative since he possessed that gift of gab at once the whole household fell in love with us including the giggling daughters of Peggy MacClarren. I doubt if they had seen such a handsome man in all their years as was my John. There was nothing to do but to stay with them till our plans were more definite. Peggy had a heart as big as all Ireland and then some and nothing ever bothered her. But she was a happy go lucky ship-shod and if her children squalled or quarreled as they so often did she never seemed to notice it, nor stop them. The food was plain and lots of it but the way it was served always made me flush. She used to laugh at me and chide me for being so as she called it too dainty arid fussy. Twice Pat and John let the ale rule them and I never did get used to seeing the ale on the table at meal time. It was much colder here than in Ireland or it seemed that way to me. John was helping out Pat in his boot shop and one day he learned of a boat sailing up the Hudson to Albany. This would be the last trip up the fiver this year till springs thaw.
If it hadn’t been such a late fall they wouldn’t have tried a last trip and then too they were just going up to Albany not coming back so here was our chance to go this fall or wait till spring. Both John and I were in favor of going on now and spending the winter in Troy with some friends of John’s friends, From there in the spring we would go on to New Perth and Turners grant. He would stake a farm and build wee Margaret, John and me the best home he could build. Sitting there before the blazing fire with John‘s hand on mine it all seemed fine and wonderful we would have our own home at last.
On a crisp fall day in November we waved goodbye to Peggy and Patrick and their whole big family and once more boarded a ship to sail up this strange but beautiful river to Half Moon. Once I remember father telling me that the river we were watching was the river Shannon and no other river could. equal it. I wondered as we sailed up this beautiful Hudson if father wasn’t very very wrong, Behind us it looked a deep ceruelean blue and before us it seemed almost green, perhaps it was the vast wilderness on either side which gave it this color. Here and there remained some colorful leaves and scarlet vines but for the most the trees were bare. Altho tall dark pines and hemlocks and cedars were plentiful along the shore. The denseness of the forests fairly terrified me. Even the sky seemed a little bluer in this late fall morning. I soon discovered I was very tired for I couldn’t help from straining to see what was around this bend and ahead only to see the river stretch on and curve again to the left or right and the same dense dark forests lining the shores. There were places where it seemed they fairly wanted to squeeze the river out and there were places where the river widened out and the feeling of tightness left me. Only till John assured me it was like this for miles and miles did I take the children below and go to sleep.
It took us five days and nites to make the journey. If I expected to find a small Irish village nestled among the hills or a New York like we just left behind us I was extremely disappointed. There were several log cabins here and there and a very very muddy street leaving the wharf. The leaves were all gone from the trees here and, the day was as bare, cold chilly cold were the winds as they lashed at my skirt. I clutched my shawl tighter around my shoulders and head, Margaret clung to my skirt and I carried John in my arms. He was heavy for me but his father was helping the men. There were quite a handful of people maybe 35 down to meet us when we landed. One of them I distinctively recall for he reminded me of my father, tall erect stately looking and sure of himself. He welcomed us and I saw his hardness and stiffness was only outside, shell deep. His eyes were warm and he smiled as he welcomed us and directed us to the home of McDonnell where we were to stay. I think from the very first moment I stepped into Kathleen and Toms cabin I was the nearest to feeling to home in a very long long time. Its’ very atmosphere was cheerful and gay and comfortable Altho they were considerable older than we were I felt as if I had known them always. Kathleen was Irish and from the county Tipperary and Tom was English. They had come over on the same boat; landed in Boston and they were married there soon after landing. They had no children and so fell in deep love with wee Margaret and young John. Kathleen taught me many things which came in mighty handy in the years that followed. She taught me broths from the herbs growing in this new land, showed me how to tan skins and how to use them, card wool and make a new kind of soap. I learned tricks in cookery and copied many many of her luscious recopies. All I knew I learned from wise patient understanding Kathleen. I always knew that John was a jack of all trades but when after he had made a new wall for Tom he decided he would do masonry I was certainly surprised but pleased for I recognized the art he possessed of placing one stone here and another there into something beautiful and firm and strong, and lasting. He never liked his fathers trade and I was glad.
Kathleen was as excited about our spending the winter months with them as we were. She sewed beautifully and enjoyed making clothes for the children: some of the dresses she e made I have saved and are packed away. I could go and lay my hand on them this very instance. I used them again and again afterwards for the rest of my children. Every one of them slept in the nite gowns in turn from John to Henderson. Their many sweaters and toboggans arid mittens which she had fun making for them were used after they out grew them too. She was clever with her fingers and taught me how hut I never acquired her finished look.
Christmas was close at hand and this was to be our first Christmas in the new country. It was a wonderful one with Kathleen out doing herself with cakes pies and real plum Audding. Not since I had left my own home in county Antrem had I tasted real plum pudding. There was venison steaks and roast quail, potatoes white and yellow and all sort of vegetables many of which I never before had tasted. Tom roasted chestnuts in the fire place and when they burst the children would yell with glee. Kathleen had some green vine over the fireplace, she called it ground pine. There is lots of it over yonder knoll I have gathered it there every year since we have lived here There were many many candles. me nite before we all gathered in the little church and altho outside a gale blew and heavy snow piled up high it was warm and bright inside. There were songs and prayers. Tom gave Margaret an Indian doll and she kept it for years. Kathleen gave me many lovely things all hand done and I still have some of them. So the holidays passed with lots of fun and many happy memories.
On the eighth day of January we celebrated Johns second birthday in the midst of a howling blizzard and the next month on the first of February we celebrated Margaret’s fourth birthday. On Margaret’s birthday I was asked to go with Kathleen to the quilting bee at the ministers wives home and Margaret was asked to come along. It was my very first and far from my last. Just as regular as spring most usually in the fall however came around there was bound to be one and sometimes two bees in the neighborhood. Well Em that party was wonderful and it was the first real party I had teen to since I had left my own home. I remember how flushed and excited I was and with Kathleen’s help I managed a new dress, my first real new one since I came from Ireland. On the way Kathleen told us about the very first bee held at Mrs Mary Langdon’s in Portsmouth N.H. in 1777 when they made a flag for John Paul Jones. Now a quilting proved to be an art in itself. H0use wives took pride in their stitching. Quilting frames were set up in the parlor and wound with flannel overlaid with wool pats and patchwork tops. Skeins of colored thread, needles and wax and scissors were arranged for the guests. Well we arrived about one in the afternoon and took our place around the table. Tongues clattered and fingers flew until the quilt was quite finished and then we were served tea in real china tea cups and platters of cold meat, biscuits, donuts and cake. The girl who took the last stitch was to be the first to marry and how they all laughed when I was the one who took it. After the supper we said our thank you and hurried home to prepare the evening meal.
It was a warm spring morning I could smell the spongy wet muddy earth as it came to life under the warm spring sun. John lifted Margaret up to my side in the ox cart. Young John sat on my lap. As John seated himself beside me picked up the tines. Kathleen tucked a basket packed full of goodies neath my feat and tucked back the robe around my legs. The tears that ran down her smiling face sparkled in the morning sunlight. We all waved and waved till we were long out of sight. As we turned and waved Thrice I saw Tom place his big arm around Kathleen’s slight shoulders giving her the strength I knew she needed. The fun and winter with my children had made her forget for a spell that she and Tom could never have them.
Traveling by ox cart is slow and it took us three days to come to New Perth from Troy. We stayed nites in inns along the way. Every one we met and saw were kind and friendly toward us. The weather was fine and it never once rained We arrived in New Perth late one Friday evening in May. We stayed with some friends of friends of Kathleen’s relatives. I must have been very tired for I never remember Mrs McFarland taking my children and putting them to bed after a big bowl of warm milk and home made bread. I recall a steaming cup of broth and a warm clean bed.
John lost no time. It was spring and there was work to be done. With lots of help from willing hands our home was built and we were living in it by first of July. The news of John being a mason spread fast about the neighborhood and when ever his work was all caught up that fall he did mason and stonework a11 about the neighboring farms. In November I discovered I was with child again. That winter was a cold one but our cabin under John’s hands was a warm one no cracks where the cold wind came in and no fireplace that smoked. My fireplace was a lovely one. John was clever with his hands there was nothing he couldn’t do, Our home was warm and cozy and very comfortable. The harvest was good for the first years tilling. The children were fine except for colds now and then. The winter went the fastest of any winter I had spent since I had been married. more than once Kathleen’s teachings came in might handy. In the spring I went to a quilting bee at the ministers home. It was my first here at New Perth. I had a fine time and when I left they gave me the quilt for the new baby who was close at hand.
On May 26 a warm sunny day Nancy Ann was born. My neighbor and friend Mrs Donaudan came into help. John had driven in to town and brought back Doctor
Gilman. Margaret who was five helped a little with small chores and the watching of young John. She was a good girl and never caused me any worry. We now had three cows, a flock of hens and a horse four pigs, one hog with a litter of young pigs. John built another barn and a stone walled yard for sheep which he got in the fall. In July Nancy Ann was christened in the White Church where we went every Sunday to worship. It was built in 1797.
Time passed quickly in those busy years. Two years later on February 17th another son was born and he like Nancy Ann was christened Alexander McKinne in the white church one Sunday morning. I remember that well for he cried all thru the service. John was real put out and I was very upset. I doubt if it would even bother me now.
When Alex was one year old I fell while milking my cows and lost a baby. The first baby that I lost and I was very melancholy for a spell but the children and work soon made it a thing of the past and it wasn’t long before I was with child again. The summer had been a hot one and Margaret was nine years old and had many little chores on her little shoulders. James was born one hot muggy nite in August, August fourth. There now was a big family to care for and John was working more and more away from home on mason and stone work. The chores about the farm now were on my shoulders. Often times his work was so far from home that he stayed with the people till he finished the job. It took a long time before I could get used to staying alone with the children especially nites and I cant say as I ever got really used to it. Even today when nite comes I am glad when I hear your grandfather’s steps on the path.
Well Em, two years after James was born came Thomas on April first, and then I lost another baby and then came Florilla. Another girl made me very happy for I had had three sons in a row. Margaret was delighted with her little baby sister and twas her idea to name her after me. At that time I didn’t plan to have any more children and thinking it my last chance to call a daughter after me, she was christened Florilla McKinney. To John it didn’t matter for he was only interested in sons.
Florilla was three when to my surprise and John pleasure I bore him another son who we called Morey. John was working away at the time building a fireplace for the McClarty’s up the hollow so he wasn’t home when Morey was born.
This was the first time he had never been with me when I bore him a child. When he did come home and Margaret who was 17 held his son up for his admiration that loving Irish grin stretched from ear to ear as he laughed at Margaret and winked at me. "Another son Flo m’darlin." Even tho there was only Margaret and Nancy my own daughters there I blushed when he lightly kissed my cheek and strode out the door. The same John McKinney who stole my heart away in Ireland older now but the sane light hearted carefree John. Florilla and Nancy took more after their father than any of the others. John the oldest was more settled and serious. John had the responsibility of the chores and work done on the farm. Alex who was five years younger helped him.
John just happened to be home when Henderson was born. Another son the last of my children. I now had six boys and, three girls. Margaret 19, John 17 born in Ireland then Nancy Ann 14, James 10, Thomas 7, Florilla 5, Morey 2, and Henderson a little new baby. Work was made much lighter for me now The boys going ahead with chores outside and my girls taking the hardest tasks from my shoulders inside the house. John was kept busy with his work. We had more cows now more hens and a fine team of horses.
With my fine family I scarcely ever had time to think about home. There of course were times when I wondered whether or not my father and mother lived. However there were some distant relatives named Walls in Troy whom I saw when we stayed with Kathleen and Tom. The years were full years a family of nine can not be a dull life. There were the usual happenings, good times and bad, glad times and sad. We scarcely ever missed worship on Sunday morning. Parties were few in those days. We read from the family bible which I carefully cherished all the way from Ireland. I gave my family the best life I could and I am not complaining but I just can not ever understand why such a blow should befall on such a good family. I don’t suppose I should question the lord’s doings for it must be been his will. I don’t know why Em child that I am telling you this for I never told this anyone else not even John. I could never seem to tell John, how I felt and what happened deep inside me, yet here I am telling my grandchild something I couldn’t tell my own children. Well Em your my favorite grandchild I guess and it is not rite to have favorites but I cant help myself.
Well Em, One fall when Henderson was seven years old black fever struck the neighborhood. We managed to keep from getting it. Thanks giving came and went we celebrated it with a bountiful harvest. The boys had done extra well that fall. The neighbors were caring for the sick and burying their dead. We helped when and where help was needed as all neighbors do when trouble comes to one of them. The first of December came and found us all well and John was away building a barn. We were all looking forward and making great plans for Christmas that year. The morning of December sixth dawned clear and cool. The snow which fell heavy in the nite was clean and white and sparkled in the crispness arid sunlight of early morning. It had been cold steady for a week and all claimed with steady cold the black fever would die out and the cases in the valley were lighter and fewer. I remember an icicle big and long hung on the corner of our house we had been watching it for several days growing bigger and bigger and heavier wondering how long it would last. The boys were out shoveling the snow and chopping wood doing up chores and the girls were busy with early December work. As I remember they were making candles extra long and fine ones for the coming holidays when Henderson came in complaining of not feeling well. That was before noon day and by nite tine Henderson was dead. I recall he had a slight fever at first steadily became worse till he fairly burned up. The Doctor came but he couldn’t save him. Two days later Thomas who was then 14 years old took sick in the nite and died the morning of eighth. Sitting at supper table on the same nite trying to make the others eat for there was no desire for food in my body, I saw Morey, nine years old fall from his chair.
The girls laid him on the bed and the doctor was too late to help him. The next morning found twelve year old Florilla burning up with the fever in her bed. She never got out of it. In four days four of my children died with the black fever. Fear for the others, grief for those God had seen fit to take from me clutched and tore at my heart. Word was sent to John when Henderson took sick and he came as soon as he heard arriving the morning little Flo died. People came people went Rev Fusy? came, I don’t remember what any one of them said, I hardly remember the funerals. For the first time in our life John couldn’t reach me. Margaret nor Nancy could touch me. When God took my four children he took with them something deep from within me tore it from my body and kept it. The numbness wore off with the years that followed but the hollowness is still there.
From within the comes a dull ache there is no laughter for me ever again. I cannot even laugh, I have tried a few times these last years but the wounds so deep never to heal allow only a smile. The laughter is burned out by the seering pain of those four days. Em I am not bitter toward the Lord but I just cannot understand. My bible is worn from trying to find, the answer. "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away", but the question why burns to this day. Margaret and Nancy tried to help me, the boys too tried and John tried the hardest and with all their love and help I recovered on the surface and tried to keep up my place as mother to the rest like a mother should. Years have helped but when the weather is cold steady cold and December rolls around my heart takes up a dull aching and remains till the springs warm sun helps to thaw it out.
Now wee one you know my reason why I cannot laugh like you, it’s our secret Em nobody else knows. Laugh wee one while you can be lighthearted and enjoy a laugh like your grandfather. Laugh Em it is good for you. My this apron is dirty hadn’t noticed it till it was close up. This butter is long finished and I have more work to do so I had better hurry this story to a quick ending. My boys were good strong boys and after the young ones died John was at home more and more. When he did work he came home at nite The farm was small so your grandfather up and bought this farm and land here in Sky Parlor. We moved here in the spring. I always thought John bought us all here to sort of start a new life and try to forget all that had happened. New home and new land marks new scenery would help heal the hearts and it did help some. The years were good from then on the farm was good and the years passed quickly.
Your father has told you and I have told you many times the story about the time he ran away from home and went to Kellystand to be a lumberman and how he was glad to get back home again. He soon married Martha Ferguson your mother, and went to farming where you live now. Your aunt Haney married Martha’s brother John Ferguson and went out west along with James who married and lives out west too Your uncle Alex married and lives near you so you see Em like all birds that leave their nest all children leave their homes. Now I have my grandchildren to live again with and such nice grandchildren they are but I guess I am partial to the girls. Your grandfather is going to build us a home in Salem and then we will leave here and go to the village and live.
Copyright 2010, Delphi Communications
Salem was called New Perth by the Irish immigrants.
The name was permanently changed to Salem in 1788.