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Saga Of Charles And Nancy

By Jack Goddard

Milestones Vol 33 No. 2

"Bravery is being the only one who knows you are afraid." Franklin P. Jones


"Bravery is being the only one who knows you are afraid." Franklin P. Jones

This is a story of the courage and sheer determination many had to have to better their lives and make America the great nation it is. One thing so unique about this tale is that it happened only three generations ago. And, it was so vivid or still fresh even in our generations' minds after having been told over and over.

Our thanks go out to Karen Reese of Beaver Falls for the information she was kind enough to give us. Also, to Ida Merriman, who lived the trip and filled in the blanks. I would be honored to hear other unique human interest stories dealing with Beaver County. Write me at 560 Jackson Blvd., Freedom, PA. 15042.

Okay, this begins when a love struck 16 year old girl named Nancy falls for a woodcutter, Charles. According to the September 19, 1974 issue of The Western Advertiser, they soon wed. Nancy, Diane Hayes writes, recalls that the wedding was at noon. She wore a white hand sewn skirt and blouse.

She also wore buttoned shoes and a ribbon in her hair. A cousin performed the ceremony in a small log cabin amidst the hills of Boone County, West Virginia. Chicken, gravy, potatoes, corn, hot biscuits and honey made up the "Wedding Feast." She recalled that about two hours later the happy couple departed for the their honeymoon---a logging camp about 13 miles down the dusty trail!

"When they arrived at the camp," the newspaper printed, "Nancy, who was riding sidesaddle due to her still being in her wedding dress," hopped off her horse and "headed for the cookhouse. There, she and her sister-in-law began cooking the evening meal for the lumbermen. Charles, the groom, went to work chopping wood for the blazing fire."

Diane Hayes, in her very informative and well-written article, adds that Nancy notes "sleeping in a cabin off the cookhouse. We used to get up in the morning and shake the snow off our blankets. Our only heat was the potbellied stove in the cookhouse." The camp came alive at 5 a.m. every morning and the two women were the first to arise. "Their first chore was to get the wood ready for the stove so that they could cook," this piece in The Western Advertiser point out.

Nancy reminisced that "we had to walk to the spring house where the perishables were kept." This, the forerunner to the refrigerator, was usually dug out of the side of a hill. "It had stone walls around it," Nancy described, "and a roof. The supplies were stored inside." She continued, "Every few weeks someone traveled over the mountains in the a mule drawn wagon to the general store where they would buy 300 pounds of flour, several sides of bacon and 100 pound bags of beans," she said.

Upon completion of preparing the meal, the breakfast bell chimed and signaled that a nutritious meal of biscuits, bacon, eggs, molasses, fried potatoes and piping hot coffee awaited the hungry lumbermen. "The men ate quickly and headed for the woods as soon as the coffee pot was drained," Ms. Hayes writes. They then began cutting and stripping trees, getting the logs ready for "Jack and Ginny" the mule team which pulled them to the saw mill.

Nancy remembered those mules with fondness. "Ginny would balk a little but I could at least ride her. Jack was too wild. I wouldn't ride him for fear he'd throw me." When the mill was sold, Nancy and Charles moved on. He worked at the Libby Glass Factory since the coal mines and railroads, at the time, were paying just $1.50 a day. Not enough for a growing young family-and, this one was indeed growing.

"We survived" Nancy acknowledged. "I used to have to carry water from that spring in a big brass boiler. I'd then heat it on the wood stove. When it was hot, I put my scrub-board in and washed the clothes. Of course," she quickly added, "I'd have to wring them all out by hand---my husband's overalls, the sheets, blankets, everything."

Bath day must have been a highmark. Imagine the same routine over and over. There was even a little plus. It would have to be poured carefully now into a wooden tub. It's easy to see why baths were given only once a week. Yours truly read where people did go a year without bathing. They'd take on this chore in May which reportedly is why weddings are a June thing. Even for added protection, the bride carried flowers.

Meanwhile, this family now numbered 12. While visiting one sister in East Liverpool and another in Beaver Falls, Charles was told of a farm for sale in a beautiful area in Beaver County called Brady's Run. He and Nancy pondered the idea and when the sisters agreed to help them, the deal was sealed. After a few years of farming, they moved to Beaver Falls where they settled permanently.

Now, as Paul Harvey would say, "Here's the rest of the story."

I think that the method they used to get here is a story in itself.

Moving day finally came and the excitement filled the air. "Especially the children" it was reported. They were leaving that little log cabin for civilization! Nancy had known nothing but log cabins. She was born in one herself in 1884. She, being the oldest of 10 children, not only took care of her younger siblings but had to quit the one-room rural school in the fifth grade when her mother became ill. Now, please fast forward.

She rounded up eight of her 10 children and packed what they could (two sons had gone ahead by train). It was hard and she was still grieving over the loss of their two-year old son who died of diphtheria less than three weeks hence. God works mysteriously, "The day after his death, another son was born to the couple."

Cuddling her three-week baby in one arm, Nancy packed the household belongings, what furniture they had and all the farm equipment they owned into the wagon. When all the children were accounted for, Charles prodded the horse team and the filled wagon down the frozen path. Tied behind, battling the cold swirling snow, was their pregnant cow!

This time their destination was the harbor of Charleston, W.VA. , where the triple decked paddle wheeled steamship "Senator Cordill" was waiting. Made sturdy by wood and steel, the "Senator" on this November 21, 1921, was heading north to Rochester, PA. For $25, this family, the team of horses, wagon, furniture, belongings, farm equipment---and yes, even the pregnant cow---were boarded on the huge swaying steamship.

The animals and freight were sent to the bottom deck where they stayed for the three-day journey up the river. Charles' and Nancy's quarters were on the second tier. The children had a good ol' time. They had the run of the boat. Their favorite spot was the pilot house. We were the only passengers on board, besides the crew. Nancy, for all the hard times, enjoyed what she had. I don't think she cared that she didn't grow up in a world with all these labor saving devices. And, the chances they took---unreal.

How does this writer know this story is true? For one thing, Karen Reese is my cousin. For another, Ida Merriman is my aunt (she has since passed away at the fine Providence Care Center)-But, most of all, I know it's true because I'm proud to say Nancy and Charles were my paternal grandparents.