Letters Home #13


I was born on a ridge farm near Alder Springs on January 16, 1902. I'm the daughter of John H. Bilyeu and Ida A. Jones Bilyeu. To this union were nine children, five boys and four girls. Dad and Mother started out in a log cabin among the trees which my Dad started clearing for farming land. Our life wasn't easy but was a happy one. We all helped where ever we were needed. When I was about six years old, we built four more rooms onto our house; two rooms upstairs and two rooms downstairs, and some porches. We thought we had a good home, and we did. Our school and church was about one half mile from our house, which we attended regularly. And was about the only place we did go except our country store and our neighbors and friends that lived nearby.

We also had uncles and aunts and cousins, and two very dear grandmothers. My grandfather Jones died when my mother was a young girl at home, but I can remember my, grandfather Bilyeu. I was about six years old he passed away.

My grandmothers lived to be past ninety years. Grandma Bilyeu lived with her children after grandpa died but grandma Jones lived in her log house until she passed away. Just a quarter mile from where we lived, I have carried buckets of milk to her and spent the night with her. She cooked breakfast on a fire place hearth next morning, the best man and eggs and hot biscuits I ever ate. Besides the black- berry jam and butter, she had her own home spun blankets and big feather beds. We kids thought it was a treat to spend the night there.

I obeyed the gospel, was baptized in 1915. We never missed church if we were able to go. I thank God for my Christian parents.

Dad and Mother kept all of the ministers that came to hold our meetings. They also boarded our school teachers. As long as I can remember we never run short of good. We had good gardens, fruit trees, made our molasses, had several bee hives. So we had

lots of good honey. We butchered our own meat, had our chickens for eggs and fryers, also had mild cows for cream and butter.

If we had more eggs and butter than we could use, we would sell it at our country store which was about one and one half miles from our home. We also had wild black berries growing on both sides of the farm. They were such nice ones. Mother would make jelly and jam by the gallons. Mother also made her Lye soap. We had a home made hopper. We saved our wood ashes which had a trough at the bottom and we would pour water over the ashes to make the lye. And she would take meat cracklings, cook in a big kettle and make soap.

We didn't have any cistern or much water at the house. So my Dad would take kettle, tubs, and board in the wagon to branch or creek to do our laundry. That was a happy day for us as we had a picnic. We would take our lunch and swim. Mother wasn't able to scrub or wash board, we hired a woman to do that. So we children would hang clothes on the fence and bushes.

We all came home with clean clothes; happy and hungry. Nellie was my oldest sister. She was like a mother to us. She helped keep us clean and our hair groomed.

Allie was my bed fellow. When we were all home. She was three years older than I. We had good times together as long as she was home. Lyman was two years younger than me. But he took me lots of places with him. If he didn't want to take me, I would shed a few tears and he would give in.

By the time Ora and Freeman came along the older ones were all scattered. Clyde, Nellie, Leonard, and Allie taught school. Howard liked farming, helped Dad.

Then Leonard and Howard joined the Navy. Buel Boyce, Allie's husband, joined the Army. William Jones, Nellie's husband, was in the Army also.

Lyman and Freeman went to Kansas City and worked at the Ice Company. They married Kansas City girls, they were cousins; Ethel and Opal.

I had several friends; girls and boys. Dorothy Thompson Mabel Willis, and of course my cousins. I really enjoyed Stella Bilyeu, Ursie Jones, and Jewel Jones as I lived near these. Ovid Duncan and Herman Denton was my school boyfriends.

Orland Boyce, Buel's brother, was a good friend of mine for several years. But he went to Kansas City to get work and when he didn't come home I found someone else.

I also wrote to Val while he was in the Navy and he came by St. Louis to see me when I worked there. He was a nice person. We went down town to a show while in St. Louis. He married my cousin Anna Thompson. We were just good friends.

Ora went to Iberia High School. I went to St. Louis and worked in a milliner shop with my sister in law, Grace.

I stayed with Grace and Leonard, but Mom and Dad came to St. Louis by train after me. Dad wanted to send me to school but I knew he wasn't financially able to send me.

Allie was expecting her first baby. She lived on a farm near Smymia Church in Maries County. She gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. They named her Katheryn Lucille. After that one, I went to my sister Nellie's home across the river and played nurse maid again. She gave birth to a baby boy. They named him Leroy. There is where I met my husband.

When my work was finished there, he brought me home. It was the month of November in 1919. He came to me regularly His name was John Edwards. We were married the next June 13, 1920.

Our wedding was very simple. No flowers, no attendants. It was a church wedding, out on the blue grass lawn in front of a

log cabin home where John was born. William F. Jones, my brother in law, was our minister.

We made our home on the Edward's farm. We lived with his parents one year and a half. And we built us a house on the farm, on a beautiful sloping hill. There were three rooms and a basement. When our family increased, we built on a sleeping porch and a front and back porch.

Four children were born. Our first was Eileen on April 24, 1922. Then Doris second, on September 1, 1923. Jack was born January 7, 1927; Mary on November 25, 1928.

We had four children in six years. The year Eileen started school, Mary was born. So we had it kind of rough those six years. We all had a good time together. We worked hard, but had a good time fishing and swimming together.

Our farm was on the Osage River. Over 200 acres of good farming land. We could raise most anything but before the Dam was built, we were flooded eight straight years. But we managed with our up land and our cattle, hogs, and chickens.

We sold cream and eggs to buy our groceries. Didn't have to buy too many as we would have such good gardens.

We called it the Garden of Eden. We had fruit trees, apples, peaches, cherries, grapes, and also strawberries. My sister Allie would come down from Kansas City after she lost her husband and help me in the garden and pick berries. We would can beans in our big wash kettle in one half cans. They were sure good. I sent her to pick me a mess of beans and she brought in two bushel. Sis would also come in the winter time when we butchered hogs to help. She always said the bigger the job, the better. She liked it, we made a good team.

The Osage River was a place for family pleasure. I learned to swim after I married, and the children all learned to swim.

A good thing they could swim, as we might of lost our daughter Doris; she was in an over loaded boat with some people from Iberia and the river was flood stage, so when they started the motor it went under. Two people was drowned but she, Doris, saved herself and another young woman. Doris was only 14 years old. She received a medal for her bravery.

We had lots of company. As people like to come to fish and hunt. We had all kinds of wild life to hunt for. We could catch cat-fish by the sack full. After John's half brother had to quit work on account of age and health, he came to live with us. John promised his father he would give him a home and take care of him. He was able to do a lot of things when he first came. He cut my cook wood and carried it in for me, which was a lot of help. He lived with us 19 years.

We also kept John Cutberth, John's uncle, after his wife passed away. He was a good old man without a home and lots of help on the farm. He would pick berries for me when John didn't have him in the field.

One summer Carl Hawken, John's nephew, helped farm. He liked to work for us but John could keep them all busy as he was a good boss. Clyde, Carl's brother, stayed with us some too. And Claud and Grant, some more of John's nephews.

I cooked a lot. I had to. Food wasn1t any object. We grew most everything we ate and they all thought I was a good cook. I had them fooled. I made lots of sour dough bread, they all liked that with butter and jam. We had our own milk and whipping cream. Pop would go to the bluff and get a sack of ice in the winter and we would make Ice Cream.

The wonderful thing about marrying young was that I grew up with my four children. We swam together, sleigh ride together, and worked together. Carl, John's nephew, would bring his sled down. He then lived about one half mile from us and we would

have a good time. It wasn't all work.

We would have Ice storms. The hill would be so slick we would ride down on ladders, dish pans, and boards, besides our sleds, until midnight and come in to the fire. We had popcorn and hot chocolate.

Pop went by the name of Daniel Boon as he loved to hunt and fish. And so did our son Jack. We had lots of trouble with varmits. We would have to lock the hen house door at night as foxes would come and carry off the laying hens. The hawks would come in the daytime and get the little chickens and ducks so I loaded our big double barrel shot gun and downed me a hawk. Also killed a little chicken as the hawk was too quick. But I had a hawk hanging on the yard gate when John came in for dinner. A hawk was coming most every day, so it caught one of my yellow ducks and let it drop in a big cedar tree. It was hanging by one of its web feet. I heard it peeping, so I just climbed the tree. I was pregnant at the time, but I made it with a few scratches and brought the little duck down to safety.

Our children were all grown, all graduated from Tuscumbia High School.

Jack went into the Army. Eileen and Doris went to Kansas City and worked for awhile. Mary worked in Tuscumbia.

After that they all married and have families of their own. And they beauty part of it, they all live near me. And each family has three children of their own, so I have twelve very special grandchildren. And at this time I have nineteen great's that call me "Granny Great".

We lived on the river farm 47 years and sold it to Mr. Davis. We bought us a place on Highway 52 between Tuscumbia and Eldon, just one acre, with basement, water, and lights.

So we hired my brother Freeman and our son Jack to build us a new modern home. We hated to leave the farm but we just couldn't keep it up. Couldn't do the work there anymore. We sure left a lot of good memories behind, where we raised our family.

It took John awhile to get use to living on the Highway. But after we made us a garden and put our fruit trees, also grapes and strawberries, it gave him something to do. We also had to make us a lawn. Pop cut down trees across our lawn fence that Frank Martin gave him. Cut them up for wood for our fire place.

We moved here in 1967, had several good years together. I had a quilting club. We met in or basement and made beautiful quilts for each other. Dad enjoyed it too, as some of the men would come with their wives. Had good food.

But in 1977 John's health was failing and at the age of 84 he left me alone. He is sadly missed. Has been gone eight years. I'm now 85.

Three years have gone by. I'm now 88 years old, will be 89 on January 16, 1991. I still live alone and able to do a few things. I have arthritis and can't get around as well as I did but I have the children's help when I need them. So I count my blessings. I still drive my car some and I go to church every Sunday. Lloyd and Grace take me most of the time.

I'm still living alone at home, with the children's help.