My Great Grandmother's Autobiography
I have just finished transcribing and editing my Great-Grandmother's autobiography. It is written in pencil, with lovely script penmanship in two little (3X5 1/2") notebooklets. I have tried to edit lightly, adding punctuation and updated spellings. There were also places where I have had to figure out a particular word, using a magnifying glass and sometimes making inferences.
Throughout the text I added comments enclosed in square brackets. These include ages or approximate ages as well as comments with explanations or clarifying meanings. To figure Emma's age I used the birthdate November 5, 1864. This is from my grandmother's record book, Daily Heavenly Manna for the Household of Faith where her mother wrote:
- Mrs. Emma Bougham born 1864, November 5. When far away and frieds are few think of me and I'll think of you. Wrote March 28, 1921 by your mother in her lonely hours. Mrs. George Brougham.
This date slightly disagreed with the introduction written by my gradmother. She wrote that Emma's mother died when she was six when according to the dates she had just turned seven. I am learning that doing the work of a biographer or historian, interpretting authentic primary resources, is more complicated than I had imagined. Unlike college research there is no professor advising me about what is too little or too much editing.
I hope you enjoy this!
Please do not use any of this without permission.
My Mother's Life
Port Allegheny, PA
My mother, Mary Jan Griffin died on Nov 16th 1871. [Emma was just 7 years old.] I lived with my grandparents till the year 1872 when father married again to a woman in Tioga. [Tioga is a county in Northern Pennsylavania.] I went there and lived with my father. In July my father, my sister, step mother and I came to Port Allegheny to visit my mother's people. I thought I never had a better time! Then we all went back home and stayed there, and went to school in a little red school house.
The next Spring, in 1873, I went to my grand parents on my fathers side on the Pine Creek Barrens. [The Pine Creek Gorge is also called the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon.] I stayed there and went to school in the red school house in Buckwoods. They only had three month terms in them days. The spring term, April to July, and then a fall term which commenced in November and let our in February.
I just stayed at my grandparents through the summer then went home. I was home only a few weeks when a strange man came for me. They told him I could go and live with him as he said his wife was not well. So I went. I was homesick before I started and more homesick when I got to the place. It was on the Jimerson, about four miles from home. The house was small and cold and dirty and no furniture and not much in it to eat. I stayed there all winter. I did not go to school, but worked. There was times that they didn't have a thing in the house to eat. The man wouldn't work and the woman was lazy. When they would get good and hungry they would go to her sister or his father's for something to cook and for their meals. I stayed there till Spring.
There was a few maple trees around the house. He tapped them and he had a few hens and they begin to lay. They laid in the brush piles. He said I should gather the sap and boil it and watch the hens and gather in the eggs. Then he made sugar in little cakes and sold it and sold the eggs and he got some money.
Now it is 1874, [Emma was was around 9 years old] Jewlery then he peddled, so he was getting something for himself. So it went on they had a little something in the house, some of the time. I remember her sister had a boy who was a little older than I. He used to be sorry for me, but they weren't much better off. I think he sometimes went hungry as well as I.
I remember one Sunday they didn't have anything in the house for dinner, so they went to his people for dinner. There wasn't a crust in the house, nothing but salt. They told me I should gather sap and boil it, and watch the hens and they would bring home something to eat. After they were gone the boy came to help me. He had stolen a lot of eggs off his mother and brought them for us to eat. We boiled them in the sap and ate until we both sick. Just as it was getting dark they came home. He had a sack on his shoulder. It had a little meal [meal means flour] in [it] that they set up for pancakes for our breakfast.
And out of cold water and a little salt they had a little. They sent me with a pint cup to her sister to get flour to make a gravy which was made in this way:
They put a couple spoons full of dry flour in a pan like some make scorched flour gravy, only they didn't have any butter or grease just scorched the flour and put water and salt in it. That was all we had to eat.
I stayed there till May than went home. By that time grandma wanted me again. I went there and stayed till in haying time. [Haying time is usually middle to late May so she stayed with her grandma for only a few weeks.] Then there was a family by the name of Herd wanted me to stay with them, so I went there. I was there till harvesting was over then I went home.
I was home a little while when Uncle Williman Beem's wife was sick and they wanted me. So I went. I was there all winter. I didn't go to school. Now it was 1875. [So Emma was around 10] I stayed there until spring, then I went home. Then Mrs. Hurst wanted me again so I was there a little while. She bought me some clothes and fixed me up, then I went home.
This was June [of 1875] when Geo Smith came for me from Susquehanna Co. I went with him and was there till one year from Sept 1876 [almost 12 years old]. Then my pa thought I was staying to long in one place so he wrote for me to come home so I started from there.
I got back to Sabinsville. He had moved from his farm out in the oil town called Maryon Station, but he happened to be at his farm on some business. He said to me, "Your ma won't think much of your going away all summer and go home to live on us through the winter."
I said "I hadn't come home to live on them."
He said, "well I guess we can keep you busy." But when he come to go home he said, "You can find a place and go to work for a while, and I'll send for you." So he left me in that way.
My brother was on the place and he had heard of someone that wanted a girl, so he took a a horse and took me to the place. I had been there a week when my pa sent my stepsister there. Her and my brother came for me that pa wanted her and I to live on the farm and go to school that winter. So her and I and my brother went there. [home to the farm] We had a beef to kill and a hog to kill so we lay in like old folks and got our house cleaned and got the butchering done. We had began to go to school when a man came to us. He said our pa said we should get places to work for our board and go to school and let him move in the house, and that he wanted to move in three days.
So my step sister began to cry. She wasn't use to hardships and she was proud and she said she didn't know what to do. She couldn't try for a place. So I told her I would find us both places. So the next morning I started out. Before night I had places for us both, so we began going to school.
In them days people had to furnish their own books. My sister had hers, but I had no books. So I went to a man, Teat, that always been real good to me and asked him to loan me money to buy some books. He didn't give me money then, but he brought it to the schoolhouse and gave it to me, just enough to get one book, that was a reader. The teacher gave me a rithamatic [math book] and the man where I was boarding got the rest of them for me. By that time my shoes were gone and the man where I was boarding got me some shoes.
Well, we went to school 'till we were getting interested when the man came from the farm and said our father wanted us to quit school and he was going to take us to where he was. So we left our school and he came for us. The snow was deep and the weather cold and I didn't have warm clothes and I 'most froze. We came in a sleigh and we got in a place called Nine mile woods, about ten miles from Coudersport. The snow was deep and it got dark and the man couldn't see and he drove out in a snow drift and we were lost.
We looked ahead, about half a mile away we saw a light. So the man said we should stay [there, in the sleigh] till he went to see if he could get some one to help him out of the snow. So we sit there hungry and cold till he came back with some other men. They got the horses out, then we went to the house. It as a big old fashioned farm house.
There was a woman and a girl about twelve years old and a lot of men. The woman wanted to [know] if we wanted supper. The man that was with us said no, but he would take a loaf of bread and milk. He didn't think the girls was much hungry, far he got us a pound of crackers and each a stick of peppermint candy and we agreed with him, for we were not hungry enough to eat the bread and milk there.
So we got warm and the old man thought we should go to bed so to be able to get an early start in the morning. So we went upstairs. There was one big room with 5 beds in it. One in a corner for my stepsister and I and all the men slept in the room. Not even a curtain between them and us, so we didn't dare to undress. So we lay there so afraid that we didn't dare to sleep.
The next morning we came down to breakfast. They had warm biscuits and mashed potatoes and dried blackberry sauce and butter. Well, we get down to eat and the butter looked as though it had been dragged on the cellar bottom, the sauce had cat hairs in it. So we were sick and didn't want to eat much. We eat a little potato. The old man eats a good meal. Then we started on our journey. The[n] we stopped to a place he went in a store and got more crackers. He said he intended to get some cheese but couldn't, so got some candy.
That night we get to my mother's people. There we got a good supper so felt some better. My pa had sent money for my step sister and me to go from there to Maryon station with and we were to go the next day, but my grandparents insisted that we should stay there a few days. My stepsister thought we should go but I wanted to stay.
So we wanted each a veil. Hettie said she would go alone and we would take my money and buy us some veils. I should visit two weeks then she would send me money to go home with. So it was in about two months pa sent me money to go home on.
Now it is 1876 [she was about 11]
My shoes have got poor and I was still at Port Allegheny with my grandparents. My grandmother was sick of pneumonia and I had worked real hard to help care for her well. Pa sent money for me to go home [but] my aunt insisted that I stay there till spring. So she put money enough with mine to get me shoes. So I was still there, then I went to work for a family by the name of Bundie.
I stayed there till Spring then I went to Lon Barnabys. I worked there while their girl had a vacation. I got a dollar and a quarter a week I went from there to Lesley Paterson's and still got a dollar and 25 cents per week. I was there till July when I had a vacation I went to Imporiam and visited a week. While I was there my pa came to the place where I was working after me. The lady paid him to let me stay for she liked me.
So I still stayed there till school commenced that winter. Then I thought, I will go to school. But I didn't know it did take so many clothes, until I went a little while. When my shoes were gone I was working for a family by the name of Fredric and pa sent me money to go [home] with again, so I take it [the money] and bought some rubbers. Then I had to go to work again till I got some shoes. That took to two weeks to get money to buy them.
Then I went to a family by the name Smith to board. I worked night and morning. I stayed at home Mondays and washed, and stayed up nights to do the ironing. I stayed there till I see I must have more shoes. So that me[an]t leaving school.
Now it is 1877 so I went to work I works a gain for Lesley Petersan. Stayed there all the next summer. Then I went back to my grandpa's and stayed there awhile. Then I went to Port Allegheny and went to Mrs Shirty. worked there that winter, 1878. Then I went to gd[?] Shirty. Stayed there till 1880 working for one dollar 25 per week when I decided to get married which I [did] in July, thinking I would better my condition [15 years old].
[From another day book, Daily Food for Christians that belonged to Lucy Griffin: GM Brougham and Emma Davy married July 4th 1880]