From Ohio to Montana


In Defiance, Ohio, we lived with Grandmother's sister, Orpha Bower. On the next street and across the alley from Aunt Orpha's, her daughter, Edith Bower Stoner lived with her husband and three children, Letha, Lorin and Vernon, named for my brother. (Edith was Dad's second wife after Mother's death.) Several things I remember about living there. Once I got into Dad's dresser drawer and Aunt Orpha's where they each kept a revolver. I was found sitting on the stairs playing with them. I have no idea if they were loaded or not. Letha was older than I but always included me in their games of Hide-and Seek. One evening, looking up into the eaves I saw a huge spider which frightened me. They still do, all except Daddy Long Legs. Poor Aunt Orpha! If there was a cobweb anywhere I demanded that she get rid of it. One day a German family invited all the neighborhood children to a birthday party. I was having a wonderful time until Dad came to see how things were going and found beer was being served. I got taken home immediately. Since Mother's asthma didn't improve in Ohio we left for Montana where my great-aunt Eliza lived. I have told in another place episodes from my life in her log cabin up the Rattlesnake.

In 1910 after we moved to Cherry Street, one of the worst forest fires Montana had ever experienced started west of Missoula near the towns of Superior and Caldwell, Idaho. Both towns and others were situated in a narrow valley without much room for anything but a road, railroad tracks, a few shacks and mines in the hills. The people were caught with no way to escape and the railroad engineers refused to run trains into the inferno. The fire was so bad that in Missoula, miles and miles away, the streetlights had to be turned on at three in the afternoon because of the ashes that were falling and the smoke. Finally Mickey McCann, a railroad engineer who lived across the street from us, volunteered to take a train to rescue the people. I remember hearing him tell of soaking a blanket and wrapping it around him and just opening the throttle (if that is what you do on a train engine) and letting the train go. Mother and Dad went to the Missoula N.P. depot to see the train and people. Most people escaped with only their nightclothes. They lost everything. Incidentally, Wilbur would never stop at the roadside marker telling about this fire and Mickey McCann. And I'll have to confess, I didn't either when Myrtle and I took our trip to Missoula.

Editor's note: The stay in Ohio made a huge impression on Grandmother, and from the way she spoke I imagined they had stayed there for at least a year, but it was only a month or two at the most. In November, 1909 Harry, Viola, Jennie and Hazel had a formal portrait taken in Mt. Carmel, Connecticut. Then there are pictures of Hazel "Up the Rattlesnake", Montana in the snow that same winter. By June 1910 they had left Aunt Eliza's cabin and were living on Cherry Street where Vern was born.

08/20/2000 JA typed Handwritten on green steno book, top spiral.
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