Monday, October 24, 2011

Diary of my Great Grandma Part 1

The following is written by my Great Grandmother Irene Redfearn. You can find all the posts I will make about her here. She was an amazing woman and the below is what she wrote at the request of her family.  I will post the entire letter in intervals as it is quite long.

My Grandma Collum was one of Great Grandma Redfearn’s children, born over 10 years after the coal mine incident. She is the one that gave me a copy of these letters. I have cleaned up the writing to make more sense, but I’ve tried to keep Great Grandma’s writing style as intact as I could. Please read and enjoy!

I’m Irene Hazel Reese. Born May 11, 1905. When I was 1 week old my parents named me my first name after Dr Walter’s daughter Irene. Dr Walter was our family doctor for years. I was the 9th child of 12 children. When I was a week old Dr Walter came back and thought I had pneumonia so put a mustard plastic jacket on me. I often wonder if I had a heart effect then. Doctors didn’t know babies were born with heart problems then. My parents bought prairie land and built a small home in 1880. Mother came to USA at 9 years old on a ship with her aunts and kids. My father was born in Iowa by green island in a log cabin near Clinton, Iowa.

Mother and Dad were married Sept. 30, 1886. At age 7 I went to Gladbrook public school. At Home we had world war ration of sugar, flour, and gas. The country school home was three miles from our home and the public school was 1 ½ miles. We walked every day to school.

In spring and summer the roads were muddy some times. The wagon’s box dragged on the roads. The ruts were so deep that the farmers would make a drag with planks and big rocks piled on it and hitch the horses to it and drag the ruts short. And in winter the snow was so deep we couldn’t see the top of fence posts and they stayed that way till February thaw. Then the big ice bergs would melt and the creeks were so full all roads flooded so we had to miss a week of school.

When the girls grew older we had to help Mother milk the cows before going to school. I remember walking to school. I always had to see for my brother Ted and Herb and sister Lillian, all younger than me. The snow was so deep, way up to our waists, and brother Ted always cried because he was cold and his tears would freeze on his face. The roads sometimes a whole week before you would see a sled wagon or buggy go to the store to get 100 lb sacks of sugar, 100 lb sacks of flour, yeast and kerosene for the lamps and coal for the stoves.

The farmers milk their cows, churned the butter, baked the bread, raised their meat pigs and cattle and raised their own potatoes and vegetables.

The mailman delivered our mail with horse and buggy, it had side curtains on the buggy to keep warm and it would take him all day. It took the old coal burning train all day to get to Waterloo if some one had to go to the Hospital. I went to school till the 9th grade then had to come for my sister in law, Ella, and brother John, who had the 1918 influenza. I was 14 years old.

*** Aside: This is for later in 1960 when I was married. When I was 55 years old I found out I had a small valve in my heart and my blood is B negative, a rare blood type. I have a small left part of my body, ½ inch shorter leg of the left side and smaller hand, left shoulder is shorter too. I also had a hiatal Hernia. ***

So my sister in law died with the World War flu. Three of our neighbors died with it too, especially those that were pregnant. I stayed and kept house for brother John for 2½ years and just couldn’t take living that way. I sure missed not being in school. At brother John’s I had to milk 3 or 4 cows, separate the milk, feed the calves and get 3 meals a day for him and me and wash the clothes on a dilapidated washer. I hand wrung and hung clothes out doors.

At thrashing time I had to feed two men at 4 o’clock a.m. and give 30 men lunch; at 9 o’clock a.m. coffee, sandwiches and cookies; then at noon 30 men meat, potato, pies, vegetables, etc. Then 6 o’clock at night supper for 30 men, meat, potato, cake, sauce, etc. sometimes I had them for 2 days. Then I left brother John.

I worked out for people. I had to clean house, do most of the cooking, washing, and ironing and at night usually had a big basket of overalls and shirts to mend and a big pile of stockings to darn. We never went no place in evening. Once in a while I would ask for a night off to go to a dance or movie. I was 17 years old then.


  1. "built a small home in 18780. Mother" What year?

  2. Thanks! Fixed it, the home was built in 1880.