From the Fortress of Solitude
Autumn 2011's first Sunday and the weather here in northern Utah is beautiful. The mountainsides are showing groupings of color. I see reds and oranges mixed with the greens and browns. I know I speak for many in our family when I say that Autumn is my favorite time of the year.
I spent several hours this week working on transferring our extensive family tree to Ancestry.com. I also worked on several new branches of the Mattson / McCrillis lines. We have new ties to Quaker ties to England through the Fisher line. In fact, our 9th Great Grandfather, John Fisher, sailed to America on William Penn's first voyage to Pennsylvania on the ship Welcome.
Among the Society of Friends who were passengers accompanying William Penn in the ship "Welcome" on its first voyage to his new colony in Pennsylvania was a glazier named John Fisher, who became the ancestor of a large American family. His son Thomas Fisher became Overseer of Highways and a justice of the peace in the new colony, and served also as agent for the Proprietary in Sussex County. His son, Joshua Fisher (1707-1788), was to achieve lasting fame for producing the first nautical chart to be made of Delaware Bay and Delaware River, a resource that remained the authority until it was supplanted by modern Federal topographical surveys.Of course, there will be more to come on these new family lines.
Today I'd like to share Luella Williamson's incomplete, handwritten autobiography found in a box of photographs. My scanner identified two pages as photographs. The other pages were scanned as text. This makes it more difficult to read. I tweaked the documents as best I could to make the writing legible. Remember, click on each picture to enlarge. I transcribed each page below its photograph for ease in reading. It really makes an interesting read. Also, I read this to Luella and asked for additional detail. Her verbal remembrances are highlighted in blue.
Luella Williamson's Autobiography
I Luella Mae Mattson was born the 14 January 1939 to Violet Mae Pierce and Walter Albert Mattson. At birth I weighed 10.5 lbs and was born at 8 o'clock A.M. The night before I was born there was a terrible blizzard and father fought snow drifts and high winds all the way to Broadus Powder River, Montana. At that time my parents lived about 5 miles north of Hammond Montana and lived with my grandparents, Albert [and Ida] Mattson.
The house that we lived in at that time was an old homestead house made of log. There were so many cracks between the logs that my grandmother Ida Joshina Thornbert [incorrect spelling] and my mother used to have to poke rags in the cracks to keep the cold out. As the years went by my father added more on to the house and improved it. [he brought in granaries to add to the home. The log cabin made the center of the house. The granary's were bedrooms. There were two kitchens and two living rooms. The grandparents had sort of their own apartment but all meals were shared]
When I was 21 months old my parents gave birth to a son on the 15 October 1940. He was given the name Walter Albert Mattson after my father.
The first thing I can recall remembering was my folks walking in the house and saying that my brother was dead. He had died of acute pneumonia. My folks had tried to get him to Belle Fourche to the doctor , but he had died about thirty miles from Belle in my mother's arms.
At the age of 5 1/2 years I started Grade School at Pinele Montana a country school about a mile from our home. My first teacher was a Mrs. VanEaten. The first year held a rather frightening experience for me. One of the eighth grade boys, a Bobby Brownfield, used to chase me home at night with a pocketknife saying
he was going to cut my ears off. This went on till my mother went and had a talk with the teacher. [I was walking and he was riding a horse. He'd chase me on horseback. I was 5 1/2 and he was 13 or 14 years old. He rode that horse 8 miles to get to school]
The school house in which we went to school was a typical country school for that time. With the big pot belly coal and wood stove. In the winter we left our coats on most of the day and all sat around the stove. [the stove had a chrome base. We'd sit with our shoes on the chrome. You could smell the rubber from our shoes burning]. The back of the schoolroom held the coal bin. I remember the fragrance the coal seemed to add to the school room. In the back of the school there being the outdoor bathrooms [outhouse] and the shed for the horses.
The winters in Montana were always quite severe and my father would take us to school on a big bobsled pulled with our team of horses. We would all bundle up real good. And even 15 degrees below didn't ...
bother us. At that time there was an old man that lived with us. His name was Alex Winger. He had a mustache. And I can remember on the way to school long icicles used to grow on his mustache. [icicles would also grow out of the horses nostrils. The bobsled was huge, about the size of a small room].
By this time I had one sister, Linda Joyce and two brothers, John Edward and Marvin Dale.
In the Spring there was lambing and calfing. During which my mother had to help Daddy and Alex with lambing and I can remember them bringing in lots of little lambs almost frozen. They would put them in a tub of hot water for awhile and they almost always would survive. We always had from 20 to 50 bum [the lambs the mothers wouldn't accept] lambs every summer.
[the bum lambs were fed by lining several beer bottles filled with cow's mild with rubber nipples on an inclined board. I hated cleaning the beer bottles. My parents didn't drink. I remember one time someone came by the house with a few beers. My dad had two beers and was drunker than a skunk. He lay on the bed with us on either side, crying that he would never do that again. He was embarrassed. The beer bottles came from the empties left outside of the local bar. My grandfather was an alcoholic before he married my grandmother. After marriage the only time he could drink was when we went into town. Grandmother would give him $1.00 to spend. He loved to dress to go to town. It was his favorite thing to do ].
One of the jobs I disliked the most was feeding the bum lambs. Spring time has always been my favorite season, and especially.....
on the ranch. We always had big snow drifts on the hills till at least May. And then it seemed that all of a sudden it would get warm and the snow would start to melt and all the small draws and gullies would fill with water. I just loved the sound of the running water and smelling the nice clean smell that it gave the countryside. I can remember walking to school and hearing the meadow larks singing and the fun of finding the first green grass.
Our house was located in a deep draw. In the summer my brothers, my sister and I used to pick a lot of berries. There were June Berry's, Choke Cherries, Plums and Buffalo Berries. Our mother would turn us loose and we'd play in one of the branches of the draws all day. When I was small I had a dreadful....
fear of blood. So if one of the boys got hurt I would run and Linda would have to take them to the house.
Living on a ranch I had to start assuming responsibilities around the house quite early. Starting when I was eight I had to help with washing, ironing, cooking and baby sitting my brothers and sister.
I grew very fast both mentally and physically and when I was ten I was about the size of a sixteen year old. And at the age of ten my mother had to help in the field. And I was almost totally responsible for doing the washing and ironing and cooking the meals. Lunch time was the biggest meal. My father would kill 3 chickens before he left for work. I would pick and clean them and fix the dinner for almost 12 people. Along with this I...
kept the house up and took care of my brothers and sister.
When I think back I can remember that I never wanted to act like a child. And everyone would remark about it. I always tried to act like an adult. All of my friends were kids of from four to five years older than I was. All except the Talcott boys and they were pretty close to my age. Although a lot shorter.
When I was eleven I had my first job. I hired out to some people to help with the cooking and house work. I got paid $2.00 per day. We got up at 4:30 every morning and it soon turned out that I was doing everything and totally taking care of their baby. At the end of four weeks I was very eager to stop earning money and go home.
End of her written story. Would you like to read more? Call Luella and encourage her to continue this autobiography. She'll do it if given enough pressure.