Root Farm with Sleeping Giant in Rear, late 1800's

Visit to My Birthplace

In the fall of 1977 my husband and I with my brother, Vern and his wife, Jean, traveled across the United States, we in our camper, and they with their trailer. This worked out just right for after we parked our trailer and camper in a campground the four of us toured the vicinity and went sight seeing in Vern's car, sharing the expenses.

When we got to Connecticut we stayed with cousins Perry and Rose (Doolittle) (1) Morrison in Hamden, just outside New Haven. We found that Perry was much in demand as an MC at entertainments both in Hamden and in New Haven and after an evening with him we could see why. He was the manager for the Ink Spots and gave us publicity pictures of them. One of the original members had died and by mistake Perry gave my brother a picture with him included, the last one he had. This had to be mailed back to him when we got home.

The next day, October 27, Rose took us to my birthplace on Todd Hill in Mt. Carmel. At the time I was born the road was called Roots Hill after my grandfather, Orrin Root. When he returned from fighting in the Civil War he built the home. One wing was used as a general store. He was well known for his policy of refusing to sell either liquor or tobacco. Grandfather had never seemed quite real to me until the following day we visited Clarence Joyce and his sister, Julia, who remembered walking down the hill to the store to buy candy from Grandfather. The Joyces still lived in the same house on Still Hill Road just off West Todd Road. (2)

We found that a young man, named Kelly, lived in my old home and very kindly let us go through the house. One thing we noticed about the upstairs bedrooms, doors were smaller and not so high as they are today. In one of the rooms I was born in the same bed as had been my mother. The wing used as a store in Grandfather's time had been made into a living room. At one time after we moved away, the house was used as a Girls' Private School.

In 1968, a distant cousin, Carol, the daughter of Rose and Perry Morrison, took us to Hamden from Boston to see my birthplace. When we drove into the yard, there were a couple of cars parked in the drive and doors to the barn and house were open, so we felt sure someone was home. However, there was no response to our repeated knocks so we started to take pictures of the house and yard. That brought someone in a hurry. The nice looking lady was very unfriendly and didn't invite us in to see the house even when I explained why we were there. Later we stopped to see an old house where my Great-Aunt Mary (3) had lived and the people explained that the woman we had just met was entertaining a man other than her husband. She must have thought we were spying and getting evidence.

A couple of things I remember about living in Connecticut. One was a corn roast in our field where all the neighbors were invited. I also remember grabbing a lamp chimney and running with it, with my father after me. Of course I fell and the chimney broke and to this day I have a tiny scar on my lip where it was cut.

Not far away from the old home is Sleeping Giant Mountain (out here in Washington state we would call it a hill), named that because it resembles a huge, reclining figure. When mother was young there was a Grange cabin, now burned down, at the top where the young people went for weekends - with chaperones, of course. One of their favorite breakfasts was bacon and corn fritters, which I still make using Mother's recipe.

Here it is:

Mother's Corn Oysters

1 egg
4 T milk
1 T flour
1/14 t baking powder
2 crackers rolled fine
(The size of crackers in the early 1900's was 3" x 3", so it takes abut 6 of the small crackers)
1 cup corn - fresh grated or cut from the ear is best
1/8 t salt.

While we were there [in 1977] my husband, my grand-daughter, Jeanne, and I hiked to the top of Sleeping Giant where there is now a building built by the CCC's after the Grange cabin burned. Sitting up there, looking at the same scenery Mother saw almost a hundred years ago, gave me a feeling of closeness to her, that I hadn't felt in a long time. On another day we visited Arthur (1) and Ruth Doolittle, more cousins, who live on Todd Hill just up the road from my old home. He was all dressed up in a new pair of overalls for the occasion. I had heard about them all my life because they were first cousins who had married. However, rather than having idiots for children as predicted, theirs all earned doctor's degrees, probably disappointing some people. He is the caretaker of the Pioneer Cemetery in Mt. Carmel where we went to see my grandfather's grave. We noticed that practically everyone in it was related somehow. I found the name of a relative I had never heard of. Grandmother's sister who had lived with my grandparents until she died: Celia Hulan (4).

Two stories my mother told me about her childhood always made me laugh. She told many more but these are the only ones I remember. One time she left the barnyard gate open into the orchard and the horses got into it and ate so many fermented apples they got drunk. Her father was very angry. Another time, for some reason she was holding a syrup pitcher when she was trying to get her father's attention while he was lying down. The lid came off and the syrup poured down into his beard.

I would love to live in my old home. It is a two-story building, set among big trees, big lawns, with a little brook running through the front yard and a man-made pond in the back.

Editor's notes:

(1) Rose (Doolittle) Morrison and her daughter, Carol, are descended from Orrin Root's sister, Sarah Josesphine (Root) Doolittle. As is Arthur Doolittle. If you've heard Grandmother talk of her cousins Freida Franquiz or "the Haynes" of Oregon or New Hampshire, they are also descended from this same sister.

(2) Clarence and Julia Joyce are also distant cousins, descended from Eliza (Hitchcock) Joyce, sister of Hazel's great-grandmother, Emeline (Hitchcock) Root. The Joyce's moved to the Mt. Carmel area about the time Emeline did in the 1840s, and descendents were still living there when Hazel visited in the 1970's.

(3) Great-aunt Mary Root was a sister of Orrin Root.

(4) Celia (Thomas) Hulan was another of Jennie (Root) Thomas' fourteen siblings.