Monday, December 31, 2007

Rev. Newton Barrett, son Edward and grandson Albert

Rev. Newton Barrett (1812-1904), his son Edward Newton Barrett (1843-1901) and Edward's son Albert Moore Barrett (1871-1936)
[Newton is the Barrett Brothers' gggrandfather, Edward and Albert are the uncle and first cousin of the Barrett Brothers' grandfather.] This photograph was taken about 1890.
Newton Barrett's grandson Newton Eliot Barrett (1890-1986) wrote this about the photograph:

Grandpa like all fathers and grandfathers, prized his progeny; and I am sure, looked for the time when he could have all of them together. Here he arranged for a photo of three generations, the eldest in each being shown together. Uncle Ed (Edward Newton) is to me only a shadowy fig¬ure--I saw him a number of times when Father and I went to Iowa City to visit him. As far as I recall, he never came to Prairie du Sac. He was a successful minister, being university pastor at the State U. of Iowa for the last dozen years of his life. In view of a short term of service in the Northern Army in the Civil War (probably Jan-Apr. 1965) he was made Chaplain of the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) in the ‘70s & ‘80s. Rose remembers him as genial, not devoid of humor.
Vital Statistics: Born Brecksville, Ohio, Mar. 1843
Graduated Knox College, Galesburg, Ill. 1866
Graduated Union Theological Seminary Chicago 1870
Licensed to preach 1868
Married Anna Moore (1848-1878) in 1870.
Took his bride to Ausin (now part of Chicago) to found new Church, 1870. Served (for a time in connection with Estminster Church) till 1876.
Pastor at Waterloo, Iowa 1876-1887.
Independence Iowa 1887-1889.
Iowa City. 1889-1901.
He died (probably from the family affliction of diabetes) May 8, 1901
Children: Albert Moore 1871 – Apr. 2, 1936
Mary Elizabeth 1873- 10-11-1946 unmarried
Grace Adah 1871—28 1876
Anna Moore 1-20-1878

Albert married Eliz. Bowman(m. Jul. 8, 1905 b 9-15-1928)
Child, Edward Bowman Mar. 8 1910
He had daughter Eliz. Ladd Jan. 7, 1950

Ed’s wife died soon after Anne’s birth.
He married her Cousin, distinguished school principal, Chicago (1843-1925) in 1884.

“Bert”, Albert Moore Barrett was his only son, eldest child, 19 years older than I. I have a few recollections of him – during his professional school days and his busy life as Professor. He once visited us at Prairie du Sac. I was afflicted with an ache in my left eye (later diagnosed and corrected by chiropractors as an ill-adjusted vertebra in my neck.) Bert bandaged the area in a white cloth, and I slept. He came for a visit to the Family in Iowa City, having come from Cedar Rapids on the maiden trip of an interurban car, which was wrecked, injuring many passengers. He gave emergency treatment to a number of the victims. He refused an offer of compensation for this, but asked that they replace his straw hat, which had some blood spots on the brim. He was upset nervously—couldn’t enjoy Phil’s and my fireworks we shot off, this being July 4th while I visited them. He bought a pair of bone forceps, to use skinning catfish.
He graduated from Iowa Univ medical school, then took a degree at Heidelburg, Germany, in what is now psychiatry. He became Professor of “brain and nervous diseases” at Ann Arbor, (Michigan University) till his death. He was head of the department and director of the clinical hospital (the “bug house” as he facetiously called it.) He got $100 for consultations. He served the armed forces (probably from his university location) during World War I. Thus he was undoubtedly the most widely known and conspicuous success in our branch of the tribe.
On my 21st birthday, during a vacation from Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash., I worked in “harvest”—wheat threshing near that city. The sack sewer of the crew was Harry Tash, a neighbor of the operator of the enterprise, home for the summer from Mich. Univ. Medical School. When we discovered that he was a student under, among others, Albert Moore Barrett, he said, “Oh, yes. We call him “Hell-rearing Jake” – he lectured so fast nobody can keep up with him in taking notes.” Cousin Mary laughed at this when I told her—saying, “He was always so nervous, this is just like him.”

Newton & Emily Barrett and their 4 children

Newton, Emily and Family, originally uploaded by dvdbarrett.

Rev. Newton Barrett (1812-1904), his wife Emily Bugbee Barrett (1811-1889) and their four children Adah Barrett Church (1841-1903), John Eliot Barrett (1845-1912), Edward Newton Barrett (1843-1901) and Frank F. Barrett (1850-1898). [Frank was the Barrett Brothers' greatgrandfather.] This photograph was taken about 1875, probably in Dunton (now Arlington Heights) Illinois.

The following was written by Frank Barrett's son Newton Eliot Barrett (1890-1986):

A brief summary of [Grandfather Newton Barrett's] career seems appropriate. He was born in 1812, in a pioneer cabin near Lake Ontario, New York, the second of a large family. The oldest, Milton, was scalded to death on about this date. Threatened by the proximity of the War of 1812's engagements, his father, Simon Barrett, after closing his term as a schoolteacher there, returned to Woodstock, Conn. 1/3 or so from the airline from Boston to New York City. Grandpa spun cloth fabric in the first factory in the State. He attended Yale, receiving A.B. and A.M. degrees. He migrated to the Western Reserve, studying and teaching theology in a primitive seminary near Cleveland; then after a 10-years' engagement, sent for his fiancee, also a teacher, a year his senior, and married her. He was admitted to the Cleveland Presbytery in 1840, ordained and installed at Brecksville, 0hio in 1841; and it was there that all but Frank, the youngest, of his children, were born. Frank was born in Milan, Ohio in 1850.

Grandpa soon after this, found missionary preaching opportunities in the wilderness of Illinois. Cousin Rose remembers Uncle John's telling of how the boys were covered with snow which blew thru gaps in the roof as they slept in the loft. The family moved several times, mainly in northern Illinois; Uncle Ed and Father attended Knox College in Galesburg, Uncle Ed graduating in the 1860s. Grandpa's longest pastorate and residence was at Dunton (now Arlington Heights), near Chicago, where he and Grandma lived when this family picture was taken.

After a few years at PawPaw and other little churches, he was called to Elkhorn, Wis., where uncle John bought a house near the railroad. I have seen the house, and looked up the record of the deed. The long ministry closed there in 1883, though Grandpa lived there for some years.

The remainder of his long life was spent with one or another of his three sons or their families. He was with Frank during most or all of his 2 1/2 year pastorate in San Antonio. His picture appears in the background of a snapshot of brother Philip about 1894 at Uncle Ed's in Iowa City. He was in our home during a good deal of my early life, and he taught me the rudiments of the three r' s, to such good purpose that I went from the first immediately to the 4th grade when I was 7. I think he especially wanted to sustain Father after Mother died at Richard's birth in Feb. 1895. He was present at Father's sudden death in March 1898--I have his hasty manuscript account of this sad episode, written on a scrap, of paper.
While I was in Geneseo 1901-05, I went several times to Iowa City, 78 miles west by rail, to visit Phil, who had lived with Uncle Ed and family since Mother's death. Grandpa was with Aunt Hannah and the unmarried girls on several of these occasions. Mary told how pathetically grateful he was for any opportunity to run an errand or do some trifling service for the family. I remember a day perhaps in 1900, when I was with Grandpa Millard for a year, when I somehow wandered over to the east side, and dropped in on Grandpa at Dowher Home. I don't think he was there very long. This was in Milwaukee. In 1904 I was with Phil and family at a summer cottage near Iowa City, when we got a telegram saying Grandpa had died--I am sure in Chicago with Uncle John. in about a month he would have been 92.

I remember him as a rather dour, humorless old patriarch, straight as an arrow, and by then slender. Rose knew greatGrandma Lydia, who died the year before I was born. She had evidently broken a hip, as she wore a shoe with a 4" lift. It seems Grandpa was something of a dictator, and was often in trouble with his people. Grandma repeatedly poured oil on troubled waters. Phil and I inherit our love of humor and comedy from Mother's side, French Huguenots in background. Uncle John, however, would have made a living as a comedian if Grandpa's Puritan antipathy to the theater hadn't prevented it. I recall the cynical remark that these early Americans opposed bear-baiting, not because it hurt the bear, but because it was fun for the people. Grandpa was, however, blessed with the Puritan virtues as well as their shortcomings; and one newspaper comment stated that he stood as the accredited ambassador of God.

Aunt Adah had been married for 15 years--had two sons, approaching their teens. Her name was Church. I never saw her as far as I know. Uncle Ed was 32, married to Anna Moore (her youngest daughter,named Anna Moore., changed from "any more" to Anne). Uncle John was 30, not yet married (married Nancy Crego, 1877). Mary Elizabeth was born 1847, died same year. Frank Ferlinghuysen b.1850, was 25, unmarried.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Biography of Rev. Frank F. Barrett (1850-1898)

The following document was written by the Barrett Brother's paternal grandfather, the Rev. Newton Eliot Barrett ( b. 13 AUG 1890, d. 27 APR 1986)

By his eldest son, Newton Eliot Barrett
October, 1969


The recent death of my brother Philip leaves me, now approaching 80, as about the only one living who knew our Father. Though cut off in the prime of his life and ministry, he yet made a make in a wide circle of acquaintances and associates. Although he was no illustrious personage, like a few immortalized in popular biographies, he still lived as one of many capable, devoted, and estimable persons, who in the aggregate, have contributed more to today’s America and world, then their few rare celebrities.

Beyond the light thrown on this hitherto unsung hero, a sketch of his life and career cannot but illuminate in some degree, the vastly different times in which he moved; thus yielding data which should be of interest to anyone with antiquarian instincts.

So for what it is worth, I want to pay this tribute of love and admiration to the only one, aside from my mother, who for so brief a time, lavished love and care upon me during my formative days.


Inasmuch as Grandfather Newton Barrett compiled a remarkably thorough survey of the Barretts of our line, ending with the year 1885, it seems unnecessary here to trace our ancestry back to Thomas Barrett, a migrant for Norwich, England, coming with that first influx of pioneers who followed the Mayflower Pilgrims into the American wilderness.

Rev. Newton Barrett, Frank’s father, was the second child born and the first to survive infancy, to schoolteacher Simon and his wife Lydia Mascraft Barrett. After receiving the A.B. and A.M. degrees from Yale University, and teaching theology in the Western Reserve, near Cleveland, and marrying his old sweetheart, Emily Bugbee, he was ordained by the Presbyterian Church in 1840, starting a career of ministerial service which, with a brief interim (from F.F.’s death in 1898 till by first pastoral appointment in 1919), has continued through his posterity up to this present day, and, we hope, will go on toward or well into its 3rd century.

Frank Frelinghuysen (the latter honoring the Whig candidate for Vice President the year of his birth), the youngest of 5 children, was born Oct. 20, 1850 in the Presbyterian parsonage at Milan, Ohio, on Lake Erie near Toledo. True to the ancient tradition of Protestant ministers, the family moved from place to place throughtout his childhood. In 1853, Newton was called to the Congregational Church in Hudson, Ohio. In January 1856 Grandfather was appointed to missionary work in the younger state of Illinois; and he bought a house that year, in Mendota. Cousin Rose remembers a story of how during the winter nights, the snow drifted in through a hole in the loft roof, covering the blankets under which the boys were lying. They remained on this 10-acre farm until 1860. This period saw the demise of the Presbyterian and the birth of a Congregational Church there, which latter group called Newton as Pastor.

An obscure interval from 1860 to ’62 found Newton serving Lake Forest Seminary. In the spring of 1862, the family moved to Knoxville, near Galesburg, to enable Edward, his eldest son, and Frank, to attend Knox College. Nothing has come to light regarding Frank’s early schooling—he mentions in a letter that Grandpa tutored him in Latin and Greek. Doubtless now he studied in the academy department. Perhaps it was in ’63 that they moved to Galesburg. In the fall of ’64 Newton was called to serve the Presbyterian Church in Dunton (now Arlington Heights) Illinois. Here he remained until 1873, at some time in that period, buying a farm house 2 ½ miles out of town.

Toward the close of the Civil War, Edward enlisted in the union army, and served as chaplain; and though only 13, Frank asked and was permitted to join the forces as a drummer boy. He served for 120 days, from July to October. Lacking any record of his life during the new few years, we may assume he lived with his parents. In any event, he received enough schooling to enable him to enter Beloit (Wisc) College, where he graduated in 1871. Beloit was not yet coeducational—the class consisted of 11 men, every one of whom entered the ministry. Frank, however, at first had other interests. He studied law in Chicago for two years (probably immediately after graduation), and was employed as collector by Fuller & Fuller, manufacturing druggists in Chicago, for how long we do not know.

At all events, he went east and entered Yale University Divinity School, and continued at Union Theological Seminary, until after 3 years he received his D.D. degree in 1880. There seems to have been a short time of unemployment; but he was called to Evansville, Wis (near where I preached 75 years later). He was ordained in an impressive service Feb. 15, 1881. A Year later he was given a card of ordination (probably to accredit him to perform marriages) in 1882, from Rock County. It will be noted that, though a Presbyterian by birth and experience, Frank gave a number of years to Congregational Churches. For many years this denomination, being possibly even shorter of ministers than what we may term more well-established ones, has borrowed large numbers of men. Possibly because of a desire to find work among his own, on Sept. 5, 1883 he accepted a call to the First Presbyterian Church of Dubuque, Iowa, where he was installed after the form custom of the Church, on Nov. 15. This relationship continued only till the end of 1884, when though without a call elsewhere, he resigned.

He evidently had not long to wait for another field—Feb. 7 1885 he writes Brother Ed from Marshalltown, Iowa that the Presbyterian Church there has called him for one year as supply pastor (at $1200 a year, a good salary for those days), and he was accepted.

The next chapter of his life so nearly concerns me that I give it more detailed attention. No data are at hand as to his reasons for leaving Marshalltown, or the precise date of the move. Letters from Elkhorn, Wisc. Indicate an interregnum, spent with Brother John and family, who had built a house there. (I have looked up the deed, dated 1883). We know definitely that he was called to a new Congregational organization, named Pilgrim Church, in Milwaukee. It seems that a group of well-to-do leaders of the great Grand Avenue Cong., on 22nd and Grand (now Wisconsin) Ave., having moved into what were then the western suburbs of outlying residential district, urged a relocation further west. That commanding churchman, Rev. George H. Ide, D.D., steadfastly refused to consider this; and he carried a majority of the members along with him. So 20 members withdrew, and organized this new church. As a child, I was given to understand that this was a missionary venture, designed to bring religious opportunities within reach of the workers in the shops of the C.M.& St.P.Ry. in the gully south of the western limits of the city. In any event, this project presented a real opportunity. They secured a building vacated by an Episcopal congregation which had built a new one; and very soon they began construction of what was acclaimed to be a first-class edifice. It was only 6 blocks from the parent Church; and from this distance in time, it seems absurd to have made the move. But the event justified the decision. I want to anticipate a little at this point. When I was a boy, living with my grandparents, two of the least affluent, but about the most competent and enthusiastic churchmen there, I enjoyed the activities of a fine thriving organization, where I sang in my first choir and taught my first Sunday School class.

Though Frank was blessed with a good constitution, he suffered from a chronic throat affliction—called an enlarged uvula or soft palate, which caused him much distress. While in Milwaukee, he had an operation for the removal of some tissue from what he called the vocal orifices. (This sounds much like the now commonplace tonsillectomy). The after-effects of this, combined with the strain of the ambitious project of bringing to birth a new religious community, aggravated the nervous exhaustion resulting from seven years of what must have been at times stormy and trying pastoral service. In consequence, his physician(s) absolutely prohibited any work whatever for a term of months. So though everything pointed to a long and fruitful pastorate here, with mutual reluctance it was agreed that he should be released at once. This was in March 1888—the new building had been dedicated, the parish organized, and a revival with a visiting evangelist held there.

During this brief association with what seems to have been his most congenial field thus far, he entered upon one of the most fantastic romances in ministerial annals. Such scanty data as I have discovered indicate that he was not indifferent to feminine charms; and at least two love affairs have been reported to me, both coming early in his ministerial career. But here he appears as a bachelor in his upper 30’s, heart whole and fancy free. Among the 20 families creating Pilgrim Church was that of the William Millard, referred to above. Midway between the eldest and youngest of the children, was a girl, Edith, at the time 17 years old. By whatever quirk of Cupid’s influence, these two fell in love with each other, and agreed to marry. If this were a book, we might be justified in giving space for more detailed comments on this phase of Frank’s and Edith’s lives. Suffice it to say that, from all accounts, and my own observation as a kilted kiddie, if ever a match was made in Heaven, this one was. Unbounded love, appreciation and devotion characterized both partners; and Mother’s untimely death a few years later brought sadness and desolation to her bereaved husband which he did not overcome till the day of his reunion with her in the Christian’s eternal home.

Apparently during his long convalescence from the sore malady we have mentioned, he lived in Elkhorn with Brother John and/or his father, who had closed his ministry in the Congregational Church there in 1883.

A suggestion from his doctor, enforcing a long-standing yearning, resulted in his decision to travel in Europe, visiting the world’s most famous art centers. From such ambiguous and indefinite hints as have come to me, he must have planned even before his engagement, to send Edith to Mt. Holyoke Seminary for a term or two. Her mother’s diary states that she went to Boston March 28 (for a visit to her Aunt Harriet, I suspect), and that she returned home June 29, 1889. Not surprisingly, the projected union caused Edith’s parents great searching of hearts and much foreboding. Interviews with Frank and his father, however, gave such reassurances as they needed; and the nuptials with the customary éclat were celebrated Oct. 1 that year.

Frank meanwhile spent from May 6 to about Aug. 12 in France, Italy and England, his experiences being related in a series of letters, some of which I have, and are available to those who might wish to read them. The weeks prior to the wedding saw him in divers pulpits as supply preacher, and in negotiations for a drastic leap from the cold and humid north to the deep south, where it was hoped, his throat trouble would be remedied. A few days after the marriage vows had brought into being a new family, the couple entrained for San Antonio, where he had been called to lead the Madison Square Presbyterian Church, at what looked like a princely salary of $1500. Grandpa Barrett went with them, or at any rate spent part or all of this pastorate there. A year later their troubles were compounded by the arrival of their first-born son, whom they named for his grandfather, Newton, and for John Eliot, pioneer missionary to the Indians of Massachusetts settlement in Pilgrim days.

As had too frequently happened in his ministry, Frank found a divided sentiment regarding his leadership; and he mentions divers considerations not the least being financial, which moved him to resign this pastorate about May 1, 1892. Records on file here attest to the high esteem in which he was held by both church organizations and ministerial associations, which passed flattering resolutions and words of farewell. Again he found himself at loose ends, securing occasional supply preaching to the iron hot (mixed metaphor?). Some of this period was spent in Milwaukee; and here Philip was born Oct. 16, 1892. Following the usual negotiations, the Presbyterian Church of Prairie du Sac called him as Pastor on March 1, 1893; establishing a relationship which proved to be the longest and happiest, as well as the last of his all-too-brief ministry. He arrived by rail with Newton at that time, and for days boarded at the Keysers’ in the village. A little later, Mother Edith and baby Philip joined them, and the family established residence in the parsonage, a few blocks from the Church. This community was the scene of my earliest recollections.

Late in January, a third son was born, whom the parents name Richard Leigh. A week later, the young mother, not yet 25 years old, fell into a delirium, in which she relived the family’s trip to the World’s Columbian Exposition (celebrating the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America, opening a little late, in ’93), helping and encouraging her two babies to mount the steps of the buildings in the “alabaster city”. The following day she entered her celestial mansion. Whatever medical term the doctor assigned as the cause of her death, it should have been spelled merely rotten obstetrics. She was carried to the local cemetery, where in the months following, the stricken husband and eldest son many times visited her grave. Nobody who has not gone through a similar experience can imagine the terrifying situation Frank faced, with three little sons and nobody to care for them.

Uncle Ed and Aunt Hannah Barrett asked to be given charge of Philip; and they took him to the parsonage in Iowa City, where he was loved and cared for as a late-born son among three adolescent daughters. Providence guided Frank to a spinster, Florest (“Flossie”) Squires, who proved to be as nearly adequate a substitute for a mother as I suppose any orphaned family was ever blessed with. A German farmer’s daughter was engaged to do the kitchen work. At Christmas time and during summer vacations, Father took me to visit Philip and family; and at times he also traveled to Oswego, Illinois for some delightful days with Uncle John, who had established a grocery business there. And all this Frank did on $75 a month!

This is his biography, not mine; so I should resist the temptation to inject myself into the narrative. I will, however, introduce enough evidence to indicate how much I must have added to his burdens during these trying years. Some time ago I visited Prairie du Sac, and called on a very old woman who had been a high school teacher while I was there, and who remembered us well—Father had officiated at her first wedding. She testified that I could think of more deviltry in 5 minutes than any other kid could in a day. The parsonage yard reached to a well-traveled dirt road. One pastime I recall was to watch for a shiny buggy to pass, and to run out and pick up horseapples, the fresher the better, and throw them at the back of the rig. Harder to bear than such delinquencies, was the melancholy habit I had acquired as soon as I could speak plainly, of swearing. When the trite jibe comes at me about the minister’s sons being the most depraved in town, I can only blush with shame and admit that in some cases at least, the remark is well justified.

Again, to confine this review within limits, I forbear to multiply reminiscences. I only know Father lived under a heavy cloud of bitter memories. Once at least I was wakened by his moaning cry, although he answered my startled inquiry as to what was wrong, by saying, “Nothing!” I have always known that he had nightmares, reliving the circumstances of his beloved wife’s death. Someone mentioned years later that he had become interested in the widow of a seminary chum named Pettibone; and if he had lived, he might have joined forces with her and patched up two broken hearts and sundered families. I only remember on our travels he once stopped at her home and ate dinner with her and her three little daughters, one of who, at her request, said grace before the meal.

On Sunday, March 13, 1898 Father woke up with a heavy cold, and his usually attendant constriction of the throat. He was unable to preach, but spent the day in bed. In the afternoon, I was alone with him for a few minutes, while Grandpa, who had lived with us ever since Mother died, was downstairs. Gasping out a hoarse word, he said, “Newton, pillow!” I had just sense enough to gather that he wanted me to bring him a pillow from the bed to his rocker. He laboriously worked this behind his back, to ease his position. Later, I was sent over to the Felix’, to east supper with the deacon and his children, my playmates. While we were finishing, he came in, having been to the parsonage to inquire how Father was. With tears streaming down his face, he said, “Newton, your Papa has gone to Jesus!” A coronary attack, called apoplexy, had seized him as he tried to move across the room; and Grandpa came in, to find him lying lifeless on the floor. He wrote a circumstantial account of this tragic episode, which is available for anyone who would like to read it.

After an immense funeral, the service to me interminable, with eulogies by several colleagues, the train of carriages, followed by hundreds on foot, wended their way to the cemetery, where he was laid beside her whose soul had gone one before to prepare the way for him. He was 47 years, 4 months and 21 days old, and had served the Christian Gospel for 16 ¼ years.


It is startling to reflect that if Frank should be reanimated and walk down the street, probably his own son wouldn’t recognize him. Of course he wouldn’t see in the aging man, the little boy he left over 70 years ago. As for a description of him, we can name only the most obvious items. He was 5ft. 4in. tall, and weighed during his last years over 220 lbs, with a waistline of 50 in. I am reminded of a remark made a generation later by the humorist, Irvin S. Cobb, who was of similar build. He said that when he rose to give a seat on a bench to a lady, the man who was with her sat down too. Photos of a Father taken on graduation day at 20 show a slim, trim young man, blue-eyed, with brown hair, and smooth face in a generation when there were even more whiskers than today. He was a brilliant second-baseman on the Beloit College nine. But from all accounts, after graduating, he gave up all exercise, except that required by his sedentary occupation. Someone hinted that he contracted fatty degeneration of the heart; though this had no direct bearing on his premature death. In later years he was a bald as a nest-egg, except for a fringe of hair about ears and neck. He wore a black silk skull-cap in the house, especially during the cold season. And I remember him on one of the truly hot days in Wisconsin, sitting near an open window, trousers unbuttoned in front, a book in one hand and a fan in the other, trying to read and cool his ample middle at the same time. Near the end of his life, his doctor prescribed exercise and diet. He was to drink an eggnog every few hours (whether before or in lieu of meals, one can only guess), and he bought a bicycle to ride about on. The sales slip before me says $30.00—40% of a month’s salary. He took me to the park among the trees to be partially shielded from the vulgar gaze; and he tried here, in the most unlikely terrain for learning, to ride it. His annoyance at falling off time after time, like a shot hippo, was not alleviated by my solicitous cry, “Did you hurt yourself, Papa?”

From references to his schooling, it is evident that he was one of the best educated men in his world. He spent 9 years beyond high school in study—commonplace today; extraordinary a century ago. His literary gifts where astonishing. From sermons etc. on hand is his not-too-legible handwriting, one can see eloquence beyond that of most celebrated preachers. In fact, one eulogy of a deceased friend was couched in such purple prose that even for that age of hi-flown oratory, it seems actually excessive. A classmate wrote me, many years later, that Frank presented an essay in his senior year, which was the best thing of that generation. The old friend I mentioned, in Prairie du Sac said that he was a splendid speaker; but he often went over the heads of the simple townsfolk and farmers in his congregation. A letter from a minister friend near San Antonio urged him to get away from his manuscript, and he would rise to the top-most rank of preachers. At the time of his nervous break, he wrote that he didn’t even write sermons now—he just talked. Yet his last sermon, preached the Sunday before his death, is on hand, written in full. He was altogether free from his notes, though, at least by then. I remember him once, walking on the platform “to and fro, to and fro”, as he spoke the words.

He was a purist in expression, never allowing an error to go uncorrected. One day I came in, clowning, crying, “Here comes me!” He insisted that I repeat the remark, saying either: “Here I come” or “Here come I”. In this way he did something for my speech and writing which has borne fruit ever since. Besides this literary gift, he had in marked degree the analytical and critical faculty, which unfortunately was not transmitted to at least his eldest son, though it reappears in his grandson, much to my envious gratification. His letters to Brother Ed include comments on the new theology, the gifts and defects of fellow-ministers, and the general scene, which set him among our leading creative thinkers.

Just what sort of fellow he was, how others must have seen him, is apparent in part from all-too-scant recollections of those who have commented on him many years later. It seems he acquired the habit of pipe smoking, perhaps in college. At any rate, his mother refused to allow him to bring the stuff into the house; so he dept pipe and tobacco in the woodshed, and indulged outdoors. I think possibly he did take an occasional puff during his last years, though I do not remember ever to have seen this. There was no liquor in our house; yet he wrote his fiancée from Europe that he was not like her and her temperance-agitator family, a tee-totaler, “as an empty bottle in many of my hotel rooms attests.”

It is gratifying to most of his imperfect associates to know that he had a quick temper. Aunt Nan (Uncle John’s wife), told of an evening in his boardinghouse when, as he rose from the table, his head hit the over-hanging lamp; whereupon he gave it a sharp boost, raising it to it upper position; but so violently that it broke the chimney. One can imagine the mortification with which he showed the damage to the landlady, and offered to pay for it. Doubtless the reader who is moved to criticize such weakness—or misplaced strength—in a man of God, can think of others of his acquaintance who are not uniformly equable in disposition.

He enlistment in the cause of freedom when it involved real danger to life and security, indicates a real sense of patriotism, and of love of liberty for everyone, which showed forth throughout his life.

With his ready friendship, he was still something of a “loaner”, diffident and even shy. It was very hard for him to make this pastoral calls; yet he was never negligent in this vital phase of ministerial service. The many testimonials from fellow-ministers indicate that he had the true gift of friendship. He was more than perfunctorily courteous. It is told of him that one day he was in a parlor, seated in a small arm-rocker. When a woman entered the room, as was his custom, he sprang to his feet—and the chair came up with him. I understand that he steadfastly avoided armchairs from that day forward.

He was notably a lover of animals. When I was beginning to read, he subscribed to a mini-pulp magazine entitled “Children’s Pets”; and he helped me read everything in it. One of his favorite quotations, which he repeated so often that I memorized it, was the passage from Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”:
He prayeth well who loveth well
Both man, and bird and beast.
He prayeth best who loveth best
All things, both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all”.

The honest biographer must acknowledge that, despite his virtues, he didn’t show up too favorably in his boyhood home. He never got on well with his father—a rather dour, humorless son of the Puritans. Aunt Nan said if he hadn’t loved his mother so devotedly, he would have left home years before his schooling took him away. Yet if this was once true, everything was smoothed out as he reached maturity. There are references to notes his father made out to him for money loaned after an unfortunate investment in mining stock. After Grandma died, he spent many years with Frank, as with his other sons, being especially close to him at the time of his bereavement, and ever after.

Mention has been made of Father’s correspondence with his ministerial brother Edward. They were as close as twins, despite the nearly 8 years difference in their ages. By recollection of delightful visits to Uncle John’s indicates that Father was as close to him, too.

I have tried to appraise his sense of humor—to me a most important asset for anyone. I recall a few humorous songs he sang in my hearing, with his fine baritone voice; especially one which, when having hurt myself, I started to make a scene in a railway station, he sang to quiet me, much to the amusement of the other passengers. Uncle John’s second daughter, Mae, was probably his favorite, and she reciprocated his affection. She told of an incident during her childhood, when she had somehow heard a new and semi-profane expression, which seemed to her highly complimentary. As she ran to meet Uncle Frank on his way home, she cried out, “Hello you damn fool!” Father roared with laughter, and said, “Well, Maisie, where on earth did you pick that up?” This much is certain, at any rate; with his humor when a true sense of refinement; and never did he tell a dirty story or make an obscene jest—something which, I fear, can be said of too few of his descendants.

I have mentioned the grief I caused him on many occasions; by my waywardness; yet, despite his stern reproof, and punishment when necessary, first with the hand, later with the hairbrush, and last with the razor-strop, there was never any doubt in my mind as to the depth of his love for me. I discovered very early that if I started to bawl, he would melt into sympathy, and by a word of tenderness, restore me to happiness. What has been said about the crushing blow dealt him by Mother’s death, and the depression which lasted for the 3 years he survived her, bespeaks a capacity for absolute devotion and outgoing love such to few men are capable of. I am sure Philip, were he here to express it, would join me in the confession that we have not adequately emulated all our Father’s amiable and godly traits; and I at least, wish nothing better than to grow throughout the time left to me, toward his purity, devotion and sheer goodness. In reflecting on my relationship with him, so deplorably brief, I cannot express my sentiments better than to cite lines from F.S.Pierpoint’s prayer in verse:

“For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth, and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild,
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.”


To see our ancestor as he lived and moved in the primitive setting of 100 or more years ago, we must try to reconstruct that environment. Surprisingly, a study of history as textbooks deal with it, is of practically no help n illuminating his every-day activities. “American History” so-called, should rather be named “History of American Politics.” We learn the names of the Presidents and their dates, in correct order; and we can at least name and is some measure describe the divers wars we have fought as what we call a good Christian nation must; but as for what much more nearly affect man’s every-day activities, we find only incidental hints. There is far more real history of a given generation in any good novel, than in even the 10-volume history of our country by McMaster, for example, which I have waded through.

Much of what Frank ate, wore, played and worked with, lived in and around, cannot be known by specific mention in the letters, etc. which we have at hand. But we may safely assume he went through the same experiences as others in his time. Using our imagination, then we may watch him in some such circumstances as the following. His diet was plain, wholesome, and sufficient; but much simpler than ours today. He opened few if any cans or packages of prepared foods, much of what he ate was raised on Grandfather’s farm or those of his neighbors. Every woman baked her own bread and like items. At first, most of their meat was either butchered by themselves or bought direct from those who did. A churn was standard equipment in every home; and Miss Muffet’s curds and whey were shared by everyone 100 years ago. The fortunate ones got fresh-drawn milk; the rest had what was left after mother skimmed the rich film of cream off the pan. If you had mentioned the word refrigerator, he wouldn’t have known what you were talking about. Never did he have an ice-box in his parsonage. A cellar or a pit dug outdoors kept perishables cool as possible; and vegetable and meat dugouts stored much of the winter’s supply of staple eatables.

As for cooking and heating, he knew at first a mere fireplace in his log our rough clapboard house. Cooking was done on a triangle of iron, supported on short iron legs over the wood fire. Later, his ménage boasted a cookstove, with movable lids over and behind the firebox. Possibly he was prosperous enough, at least in his city churches, to have one with warming oven around the pipe leading to the chimney. There were even in some homes a reservoir behind the stove proper, in which rain water was kept warm for dishwashing, bathing, etc. Enamel and modern cooking ware was undreamed of. Tin pans, copper kettles, iron skillets etc. served for preparing food.

He never enjoyed the convenience of running water or even a sink. Hard water for cooking and drinking was drawn from a well in the yard, by a hand pump. Thawing out the affair on winter mornings was one of the simple pleasures of the time. At the corner of the house was a large rain-barrel of oak, which caught the run-off from the roof, and from which the industrious housewife brought in the soft water by bucket. The scullion would throw out the water and garbage (swill, as it was popularly called), through the back doorway. His last domicile boasted the luxury of a slop-hole, 3 ft. deep and about 6 x 6 square, in the barnyard behind the house, rich in odors, replete with toads, bugs and other scavengers, and at long intervals filled in and replaced by one dug near by.

It should not be assumed that, since semi-modern conveniences had been invented, discovered, and manufactured some years before the time of which we write, there were available for Frank and his family, in the rural and small city localities where he lived. It is doubtful if he saw, or at least walked about the streets of Chicago or other cities until after he graduated from college. There were stylish clothes and “store” shoes before he was born; but it is doubtful if he possessed any of these in his childhood. Homespun, or hand-woven fabrics, tailored by mother or a specialist in the neighborhood, were the order of the day. In later years, he dressed as well as we do now—he was very fastidious about his appearance, and was especially careful of his shoes. A bill is at hand from a London cobbler, for a pair of shoes bought during his European trip, priced at 1 pound 8 shillings—some $7 in American money at that time—today that would be equivalent to $50 or $60. Naturally, years earlier, a poor minister with a family, would think more than twice before supplying the young folks with such luxuries.

To us who light up the house by snapping a button, it is hard to conceive the primitive illumination of the 19th Century. Never, unless at brief intervals in the cities, did Frank have electric or gas light. At first candles, home molded from local fats, later kerosene lamps, provided the dim glow he knew at night.

Bathtubs, when they had them, were of simple type, most often wash-buts set on the floor and filled and emptied by hand. I mentioned the razor-strop as a convenient and effective agency of chastisement. No such gadget as a safety razor was in his toilet kit, but the old side-winder whose use demanded true dexterity.

It is safe to assume that Frank’s boyhood and youth, spent much of the time on the farm, involved the usual hand labor. McCormick and other inventors had begun manufacture of agricultural machinery by his time, it is certain that Grandpa never aspired to the ownership of it. Hay was mowed by scythe; gain was cut and windrowed by the cradle; threshing was done with a flail or the most primitive beating process. The ground was plowed by a horse-drawn walking plow—whence the derogatory epithet leveled at the son of the soil, of “clod-hopper.”

As far as known, Frank never went to a hospital—only in the cities had therapeutics developed so far. People were cured or died at home. His employers, Fuller & Fuller, doubtless had workmen mashing medicinal lumps to powder with mortar and pestle—a thick mug, and a heavy stone rode with rounded and enlarged end. Liquid medicines were brewed in vats and bottled. Mainly, however, Franks’ family resorted to home remedies—sulphur and molasses to thin the blood in spring; molasses and wormwood for divers ills; vile-tasting dosages of rhubarb, ipecac, picry etc. contributed what they could to health and vigor. Childbirth, for his mother, sister and wife, was unmixed agony—opium derivatives were administered only in extreme emergencies; and surgery was performed on the groaning victim, who was strapped to the table.

The books he had were printed a leaf at a time, on hand presses; later, foot-treadles speeded up the operation of impressing single pages against the type forms. Only in his later years had newspaper and magazine publishing enjoyed the advantage of speed roller presses.

If Frank ever saw a typewriter, he never used one—his last sermons in our possession, were written laboriously on page after page in longhand. He used steel pens only in later years—blotting paper and pen-wipers were standard equipment on every desk. In early life, he and his elders used goose quills, the butt end having been pared down to a fine point. Every page or two, this soft implement had to be sharpened—hence the use of the pen-knife. If he ever used a telephone, it was for an occasional call in Chicago of Milwaukee. He never saw a picture show. Barnstorming troupes of actors, good and worse, toured the country, and supplied whatever dramatic entertainment the population enjoyed. The magic lantern, using a large kerosene lamp for illumination, playing on glass slides, whose images were enlarged by two lenses like those in binoculars, were coming into vogue at the time of his death.

As a man in middle life, he saw the first gas-buggy which came to his town—he surely never rode in one. His first churches were some 7 miles apart; and he had a horse which took him from one to the other. In his last town, he borrowed Assemblyman Conger’s old mare Babe and buggy for his not-too-frequent country calls.

While by the gay 90’s, opticians were appearing in the cities, Frank never wore spectacles, nor did his aged father, who was able to read by the help of a hand magnifying glass.

In short, his world would seem to us, if we might be dropped down into it, as impossibly cumbersome and laborious. This feeble attempt to recreate our ancestor as he lived out his days, however, indicates that the really important factors of a successful and rewarding life; intelligence, consecration to his life’s goals, love and kindness, purity and sheer goodness, are in no way dependent on gadgets or conveniences. He was contented, since nobody else, at least in his set, was better provided for. It is more than probable that he and his friends in that simple and slowly-moving age, were actually richer than the ulcerate, jittery, driven moguls in their electronic penthouses. God grant that his progeny may operate in their sophisticated milieu, as usefully as he did in his.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Everyday life 1895 - 1900

The Rev. Newton Eliot Barrett, the Barrett Brothers grandfather, was born in 1890 in San Antonio, Texas and died in 1986 in Moline, Illinois. Late in his life he wrote the following account of what everyday life was like in his childhood. As in everything he said and wrote about his childhood, this account also reveals his unique personality and outlook, especially his resentments and bitterness at being made an orphan at age seven.

My daughter-in-law Bertha for some reasons thinks I might provide a permanent record of my life which would interest my grandsons, especially if I would recount numerous experiences such as her own father does in conversation, recreating a very different world from this one in which they have grown up.

A few months before I was born, my father was called to the pastorate of the new Madison Square Presbyterian Church of San Antonio, Texas. In default of a parsonage, he rented a house near the church. My Grandfather Newton, 78 years old, came with them and lived there during their rather brief stay. Father wrote Uncle Ed that he diverted himself with minor carpentry jobs – a sonata in storage cases, or a symphony in shelves. He accumulated the biggest assortment of the bent nails in San Antonia.

The summer must have been terrifically hot—the doors, without the newfangled screens, were left open for what breeze might steal in. One day those caring for me were horrified to find a scorpion underneath my crib. Mother kept me dressed in the customary southern whites; and a letter to Grandma complains that I had a penchant for finding the muddiest puddle in town and befouling my freshly-donned kilts in it.

For various reasons, Father resigned in April 1892 and returned to Milwaukee, where the family lived with Grandpa Millard’s family until Mar. 1, 1893, and supplied pulpits during that period. Here my first dim recollections begin. The house at 260-20th St. became familiar to me by three residential terms, from this date to July, 1908; so a description of it deserve mention.

A few years before my birth, Grandpa Millard took a big venture and bought a frame mansion, as it seemed then, which was to be moved from the later site of the C.M. & St.P. Railroad depot at 4th and Sycamore Sts., a block south of Grand (now Wisconsin) Avenue. He had bought a 50-ft. lot between Cedar (now Kimball) and State Sts. There he had a basement dug and put the house above it. Ever since I knew it, this fine building being too costly for the diminishing family to occupy alone, the second floor had been made into a 4-room and bath apartment, and rented, first to a widow Mrs. Williams, with a fine adult daughter, salesgirl at Chapman’s Dept. Store, and Taffy, (they were Welch) brown water spaniel.

This second floor was off limits, except that Grandpa had reserved the right to take his Saturday night bath in the tin, wood-framed bathtub (much like more modern tubs in shape and size). The rest of us used a small oval-shaped portable tub on the kitchen floor. We lived in the five lower floor rooms, with diverse closets and pantries. A partition had been built midway back in the hallway besides and under the stairs, which served as dressing-room for those who slept in a folding bed in the “back parlor” or living room. The front parlor was used only for special occasions or purposes. It had the square piano on which the youngest, Aunt Helen learned to play, and became remarkably gifted in music; a few stuffed chairs, etc. There was a fireplace, never used, with a marble mantel, on which we hung our stockings (I don’t know how) on Christmas Eve, instead of enjoying a tree. (Others did have such a tree as we now do, with candles, which too often ignited the resinous needles, and occasionally chilled the holiday festivities by fatally burning somebody.)

The living room was a busy place – Grandma’s secretary or writing desk, where she entered an account of each day’s happenings in her diary – a work which would be of real value for antiquarians who wished to reconstruct the life of the late 19th Century. (I have about a dozen volumes, which I highly prize. They should go to the Wisconsin Historical Society at Madison). Grandpa took his regular noonday nap on the old-style sofa (He was old during my boyhood, and took a long noon hour from his duties as manager of some apartment buildings downtown.) a marble-top table in one corner held current magazines and the “Evening Wisconsin”, which Millard Sawyer and I carried at various times $5 a month with a bonus of double that on New Year’s, when we held up each customer with an ornate calendar, costing us about a dime and usually bringing a quarter – once and a while a dollar. There were enough chairs in that room for each member of the family, who assembled after noon dinner for family worship – each reading in turn a few verses from the selected chapter of the Bible, then kneeling with elbows on the seat, and taking his turn in voicing a more or less devout prayer.

The big dining room in an ell to the south side, with French windows, reaching from floor to ceiling, and which could be, but never were opened upon the front lawn, was the master bedroom, serving as a chamber for Grandpa and Grandma, and the mongrel dog Carlo, who slept at Grandma’s feet. She often complained that Grandpa never allowed him in his way, but considered it proper for his spouse to be content never to stretch out full length in nightly comfort.

We ate in the kitchen, which, beside the extension table, held a combination coal and wood, and gas range; of course, chairs enough for the family, and a shelf opposite the stove, where we cut our bread. (I think Grandma baked at least part of the time; otherwise we bought unwrapped un-sliced loaves at the grocery or baker). Here we mixed the daily breakfast, sometimes dinner and supper staple of French toast—a slice of bread dipped in a mixture of egg and milk, then fried in a skillet, and eaten with butter and usually jelly, scores of glasses of which Grandma put up in season, mostly from grapes. Grandpa on his way to the office, located in one side of a large store room also housing a coal dealer’s headquarters, stopped at one or two groceries and ordered the day’s supply of vegetables (remember often spending the better part of an hour shelling peas from the pod), and other items, which were delivered from a one-horse drawn wagon. Grandpa had operated a grocery several times; but was crowded out by competition, preventing him from making enough to support his large family (ten children, seven of whom grew to adulthood). The adults had coffee, Grandpa pouring the seething brew, diluted with boiled whole milk, including a bit of coagulated cream – “leather apron cream” he called it. A favorite dessert was “thousand island pudding”, made from sweetened milk and egg yolks, topped by a thick frothing of the egg whites beaten. The staple meat ration was called chopped beef, a remote ancestor of hamburger, not kneaded into a mass but fried in pop-corn sized kernels, and industriously forked or spooned into one’s mouth. Grandma had a strong prejudice against onion; and until late in life someone persuaded her to mix in “just a suspicion”, unenhanced by any seasoning but salt. In the big city, we had our milk delivered from a wagon similar to the grocer’s, in bottles, treated in the very novel process of pasteurization, (I wondered what relation this had to the field where the cows grazed), but of course named for Pasteur, a pioneer bacteriologist who devised this means of safeguarding the public health. For extra supplies, we went to a “milk depot” which seemed strangely named, as it had no similarity to a railroad station. Here we brought our tin bucket or crockery pitcher and the attendant poured bulk fluid from a tin measuring can with a spout, 3¢ a pint, a nickel a quart.

The kitchen was where much of our toilet was performed – especially shaving for those of the necessary age and sex. A wall mirror hung near the back door, illuminated by a flare gas jet. We had no electricity, as most houses did, but beside the wasteful flare fixtures, in the parlors we were supplied with Welsbach mantle lights, which were lighted by such a taper as is still used in the churches for the alter candles. This intense but soft white light hasn’t been duplicated even yet by electricity. On the above-mentioned shelf was the indispensable candle in the old-fashioned tin candlestick, which we lighted with old-fashioned sulfur matches whenever we had to use the toilet.

As I said, the bathroom was not for us—we went to the basement where there was a primitive “can”—a regular seat, atop a funnel-shaped porcelain duct leading to the drain pipe beneath the floor. A brass-capped rod with a strong spring, when pressed poured a swirl of water spiraling down to the depths, carrying everything with it. The candle was necessary—there was no light in the basement. Here were three rooms; the first one beneath the kitchen, containing two coal bins; one for “hard” or anthracite coal for the base-burner which in winter occupied a place of honor in the back parlor; the other for “soft” or bituminous coal, for the kitchen range. This and the “laundry” under the bedroom ell, were paved with brick. There was a sink beneath the small room off the kitchen where the dishes were done; and every week an immigrant German woman would come and scrub the dirty clothes by hand on a corrugated tin washboard, and hang them on a rope line in the back yard. After this laborious process was completed, she would rest by sloshing the wash water of the kitchen floor and scrubbing the wooden boards—just while resting.

Behind the first room—or toward the front of the house, was the store-room. Beside the toilet, was a board-floor covered area where a miscellany accumulated through the years, was housed; lawnmower and hose, divers tools, scrap lumber, etc. Uncle Bob had installed an iron bar, hung from three joists, on which he and later Millard and I strengthened our muscles by doing pull-ups. (Thanks to this, being avid for some morsel of human glory, I prepared for the beginning-and-end gymnasium tests, by going through the exercises every day. As a result, I was second only to a cripple with a shrunken leg, who had arms like other’s legs and a light body. I also starred in the pole-climb, and was named in the newspaper review of the physical program conducted by the West and South side high schools).

To complete the floor plan of this interesting house, there was a ….off a cubby-hole a scant 2 ft. wide and six or so deep, off the fifth room, a small bedroom, which held a miscellany of infrequently used clothing and equipment.

(The reason for this circumstantial account of the house and its uses is that while seeking to reconstruct the world of Grandpa Barrett (1812-1904) I searched in vain through the exhaustive histories in the library, only to discover that historians were concerned only with political and public life, not at all with what one would most naturally want to know—what people ate, wore, used, how they worked, played, perhaps even sinned. Only historical novels helped to satisfy this curiosity. Possibly this rambling and of course very partial account will help the young to live with us who are going the way of all flesh, and thank God and human enterprise and ingenuity for providing them with so much their ancestors lacked.)

It was during this period that my first vivid memory comes. We four, now including baby Philip, went to Chicago to the World’s Colombian Exposition. One afternoon they jailed me in a large, bleak and bare room, furnished only with child-proof fences. They could carry the baby; but I was too much for a day-long portage, and of course not equal to the interminable hoofing it through the exhibition halls and walkways. Feeling betrayed and abandoned, I set up a howl which naturally fell on deaf ears, or most on none at all. One fortunate neighbor had a baby-sitter, who entertained him with a supply of toys. After they had looked my way and ascertained that I was not in mortal agony or dire peril, they ignored me, and left me to continued outcries, then to glum silence. The sequel I have forgotten; only Father explained that the reason for my ordeal was that I couldn’t have kept up with them in their travels; and my indignant assurance that I could too have gone along.

My earliest recollections of a home—what I have said about the Milwaukee house comes from memories of later terms there—is the parsonage at Prairie du Sac, Wis., where Father served as Presbyterian minister until his death five years after coming there, and burying Mother, who died at 24, after baby Richard was born. Here I went to a short summer term of kindergarten, attended nearly two years of school, got my first well-deserved switching, broke my first bone—“shin-bone” as Phil called it; and in general, caused my long-suffering Father and in lesser degree, other intimates, more anxiety and grief than most youngsters do.

Being situated in a small town of some 600, it is natural that I found the house there and the community lacking in many of the amenities Milwaukee provided. The limited observation and faulty memory of that early period makes it impossible to reconstruct the life or its facilities in detail. But what I can recall, you will note, comes from the 19th Century; and requires considerable imagination to grasp. The house was an ordinary two-story structure, with such fittings as other middle-class residences boast of. The first floor, of course, contained kitchen, dining room, parlor and the master bedroom; the second provided sleeping rooms one of which Father used for his study. As in Milwaukee, there was no furnace; I presume the parlor stove was a base-burner; I remember the upstairs stoves, with wooden boxes for fuel and kindling. The place was well lit by lamps. I vividly remember Father’s “student lamp”, carried along wherever he lived, having illuminated his textbooks during his seminary days. It consisted of a white-plated metal frame, one side holding a quart-sized kerosene can, the other a lamp assembly with a round wick, a slender glass chimney, and a white porcelain shade. The center rod or small pipe was topped by a ring for convenience in carrying. There was a large glass-doored bookcase, which I seem to have inherited, as Uncle Will had it in Geneseo and offered to pay me for it, as he needed it and it would be costly to move. I remember I told him to keep it, since he had done so much for me.

I well remember Father poring over his laboriously written manuscripts, (of course there were no typewriters in general use then) and pacing back and forth conning over his sermons. Bald as an ostrich egg, except for a fringe over the ears, he wore a black silk skull-cap, evidently to keep a sensitive pate warm.

Naturally there was an inevitable privy—no plumbing in town; and a barn, unoccupied, since we never afforded horse and buggy, but in his infrequent pastoral trips into the country, he borrowed Assemblyman Conger’s old mare Babe and a one-seated rig. Some cast-off pamphlets were stored in the hay-mow. In what is now the garage, then the poach-room with large sliding door, he had rigged up a swing from me, often pushing me as I soared through the air.

Since there was no plumbing, we had to dispose of our garbage and swill—dirty dish-water,-- by having a “skip-hole” dug in the barnyard—some 3 feet deep and six square. Here the maid would throw all our refuse-- a noisome slimy affair. One day next-door playmate Charlie Meisser, left to our tender care while his Mother was spending an afternoon visiting, playing too close, slipped and fell into the hole, among the peelings and a toad or two. His frantic screams brought the house-women running; who rescued him, taking him into the house and removing his befouled waist, putting one of mine—a blouse, with wide-flowing collar, made of blue cloth with a pattern of small white anchors—a beautiful creation!

This is a good place for a tribute to those house-women. The kitchen maid was the late-adolescent daughter of a German farmer near town. I remember nothing of her, except that she was there. The woman who next to my sainted month, did more to make life ____ was a spinster named Florest (“Flousie”) Squires. Through the many years since I have trusted that God in His merciful bounty, has rewarded her, who gave me the last love I basked under, until Alma became my wife and home-maker. The few memories of that era head me to wonder how one not a natural mother, could have had such an attachment for the little devil I must have been, as I remember she really had.

When I came to Prairie du Sac, there were no electric, lights, or of course, running water or plumbing. A couple of years later, while the parsonage didn’t glory in the new illumination, lights were installed at each street corner—on a telephone pole equipped with a bracket reaching out over the dirt road, a bulb with primitive carbon filament, topped by a foot-wide porcelain or enamel reflector, which threw what seemed a brilliant circle of light on the snow-covered winter ground. There were two sizes of bulbs, 16- and 32-candle power. Watts had not yet been heard of.

Each house and public building had its pump, usually with a tin dipper for the convenience of thirsty passers-by, and surrounded by a wooden platform to raise users above the soggy lawn or muddy street, and often with a wooden trough to carry un-caught water away from the favored spot. Of course every building had eaves troughs with down-spouts, to catch the rainwater, which was conveyed to a barrel at a corner or, as later in New London, into a wooden tank in the basement, into which a pipe was stuck, leading to a short-handled pump in the kitchen’s primitive sink. This soft water was perfect for washing purposes—detergents except purchased or home-made soap were unheard of.

Clothes were sprinkled when about dry from the lines, rolled tight to let the water seep through the entire fabric, then ironed, usually Tuesday after Monday wash-day. Each household had several iron flatirons, toward the years of refinement, instead of wooden handles equipped with a spring catch which engaged a depression and cross-bar in the iron, we had all-metal affairs which were placed on the back of the range, and the hottest taken up with a padded cloth holder and used until too cool; then exchanged for another one.

Father (or Papa, as we called him—he used the more genteel term for Grandpa who lived with us a good part of time) had quite a respectable garden in the side yard, the crop I remember best being potatoes, which he would sprinkle every few days using a 3-gal. spoutcan with sprinkler head, filled with a solution of paris green, a deadly poison which controlled the thriving potato bugs.

There was a bountiful supply of snow every winter; and it was a real chore to remove each fall from the long walk—we were on a corner lot. One of my jobs was to ride on the plow, made of 3’ boards fastened at about right angles, braced in various directions, and supplied with a strong push-handle reaching up to about waist level, fitted with a short cross-piece which the operator gripped and pushed. The town engaged men with single horses, which plodded along public walks dragging a king-sized plow weighted to hold it down to earth.

I remember being cared for—perhaps just after Mother’s death—in a swank residence in town. I enjoyed watching carpenters rebuilding the window sash in downstairs rooms, and installing weights fastened to the lower frame, leading over a pulley at the top of the opening, ready when the window was unlatched, to draw it up to the desired height. The Milwaukee house never had these luxuries. Grandma had pieces of half inch molding, just long enough to hold the sash clear up. If one was careless and put the thing in at an angle, as passers-by might see the disgrace, he was definitely instructed to move it over next to the frame.

I have mentioned the lack of plumbing. A homely but essential item of house furnishing was the chamber set, consisting of large water pitcher and washbowl, usually a small pitcher for shaving water, perhaps soap dish, those on the top of a commode, table-high, with a full-width drawer under the flat top, and beneath on one half, a deep drawer for linens, on the other a door with latch, concealing a chamber pot, or possibly for fluent occupants, a slop-jar, nearly a foot deep, with wire handle and close-fitting cover. The word pot was definitely understood to refer not to culinary devices, but to baser uses in the chamber. An earthy couplet from my childhood comes to mind:

“Went upstairs to light the candle,
Fell over the ___pot and broke the handle.”

A tale is told about a newly-married baseball umpire, who was presented with a chamber set. Upon unpacking it, he discovered the pot was badly cracked. He complained to the dealer: “You delivered my chamber set, and I found one of the pieces was cracked.” “Was it the pitcher?” the salesman asked, “No, it was the catcher! (Delicate publishers may, if desired, delete those last lines.)

An early recollection centers about an apparent infection in a nameless area, of which I complained. So Father arranged for a circumcision—a rarity in those days. I remember being stood before a window in the parlor, beside the folding sending table, on which were diverse strange objects. A woman seems to have had an active part in the ceremony, for I thought she was a doctor. Later Aunt Nan insisted there was no woman doctor in small places like ours – she was obviously a nurse, imported for the occasion. I remember making enthusiastic out-cries, though I don’t recall the pain.

The only real need I had for a doctor’s help was when I broke my leg. It seems I was under discipline for some of my many misdemeanors; and forbidden to leave the yard. To get as far out as possible, I climbed up on the picket fence separating us from our next door neighbor. Grandpa called out from the door: “Newton, didn’t your Father tell you not to leave the place?” In haste I jumped down. What happened is still a mystery – doubtless a hole in the knee of my overalls caught on a picket and I hung in midair, screaming until rescued. Apparently my “shin-bone” as Phil called it, was broken (the tibia.) There was no hospital in or near Prairie du Sac. (There was one a couple of blocks from us in Milwaukee.) Nor were there any telephones there. So Grandpa set out on hotfoot for the doctor’s house, and Father for his office. Flossie removed permanent ornament from the dining room table – a device with four receptacles, one each for salt, pepper, vinegar, and something else I forget—stripped off a 2” checked red and white table cloth, and laid me up there. She cut my nice black stocking from knee to ankle and removed it without moving my afflicted leg. I remember wondering, when I had always been instructed to preserve my raiment, she was demolishing mine. The doctor arrived in due course, evidently gave me chloroform—ether, etc. where not yet in common use—set the leg and put on a plaster-of-paris cast, which I wore for seven weeks. It was evidently a good job, as I never had the slightest after-effects.

I refrain from recounting several diverting episodes which demonstrated my fertile imagination and melancholy penchant for deviltry; perhaps I will live to expand these pages with belated confessions. What I have said is designed to illumine the dim and distant past and, I trust, induce appropriate thanksgivings in the hearts of the younger generation, whom Providence has brought to birth in this far more congenial age.

One Saturday Father evidently caught a cold, probably from exerting himself unduly in plowing snow. Anyway for the first time he was unable to take his place in the pulpit next morning; but lay in bed struggling for breath. I happened to be in the upstairs bedroom with him for a while; and he gasped, “Newton, pillow!” With a real effort I grasped the fact that he wanted me to hand him a pillow. This I did—my last service to him. He painfully worked it under his head and shoulders, and, I think, breathe somewhat easier. I was sent over to the Felix’ where I ate supper with the playmates and their parents there. As I was at table, Mr. Felix came in weeping, and said in a broken voice, “Newton, your papa has gone to Jesus!” What was called a stroke of apoplexy had seized him; and he apparently fell I guess from a rocker near the stove, his head striking a corner of the woodbox next to it. Grandpa was either in the room or came in at once, for a paper I still have recounts the main facts of this tragedy. I remember sitting next to Uncle Will in the parlor near the black cloth-covered casket, and an interminable funeral service in the Church, enriched by diverse eulogies from brother ministers; then the procession—I had a coach ride! To the cemetery, where I looked down into the gaping hole in the ground, graciously lined with white flannel, into which four men holding ropes under head and foot ends of the casket, lowered it slowly down into the wooden box at the bottom. I have visited the grave several times since—he lies beside my Mother who preceded him by three years in death.

How it was arranged or by whom I never knew; but Uncle Will, Mother’s eldest brother, Pastor of the Congregational Church of New London, informed me that I was to go home with him. Of course we went by train—the well-developed means of transportation beyond the range of horse and buggies. There I abode with him, Aunt Marion and 4-month-old Jessica.

For the first (and until my last residence, the only) time of my life, I shared a brand-new house with relatives. Every modern device enjoyed by small-city dwellers had been provided. In fact, a few minor jobs were still not completed until later. It was fine large frame house, with full basement, and two or three bedrooms in the front part of the second story, the rest partly finished and designed for an attic. For several evenings after I came, masons came in and laid ornamental tiles in the area before the fireplace. Heat was supplied by a big furnace in the basement, which also contained a great vat or cistern, to store the soft water running into it from the eaves and down-spouts outside. A fine new kitchen sink graced the cook’s domain, with a drain-board for washed dishes; and a pump to draw the cistern water as needed. A good serviceable pump was installed over the well in the back year, and one of my chores was to bring in a small pail-full or two each morning for drinking and cooking. In the yard was a model privy, with the usual facilities; and a clothes-reel, an improvement over lines running across the yard. It consisted of a stout upright post, topped by an iron rod, upon which was balanced a revolving reel—four 2X4 studs about 18 feet long, reaching out in the four main directions of the compass, braced to support the weight of wet clothes. Every 2 feet a wire line was passed around the square, through holes in the arms. The laundress could stand by her basket of washed clothes and hang the pieces on one line or the other, moving it about until a bare wire came to her.

Just before I came to New London, the school-boy’s dream had come true—the schoolhouse had burned down. By coincidence, the Congregational Church was vacant, since Uncle Will had led the people in building a few new red stone building, not far away. The school board secured use of the frame structure; and installed partitions probably eight feet high, which made three rooms; two toward the pulpit and the third occupying the front third. The older children passed through this primary room to their respective places. In lieu of desks, 18 inch boards were fastened to the backs of the pews at a slight angle, so the children were permitted to carve grooves near the upper edge, to hold pencils and pens. I don’t remember whether places for the books were also built in or which seems more likely, the pupils laid their equipment on the seats beside them. Of course nothing was sound-proof—any usual noise from one room was heard throughout the building.

One morning, with no apparent preparation or administrative intent, a sweet young voice, probably feminine, rose from a room other than mine, in the devotional song which some of the grades used during the regular opening minutes of each day’s session. I have written it down, harmonizing the appealing simple tune, with the words:

Father, we thank Thee for the night,
And for the pleasant morning light;
For rest, and food, and loving care,
And all that makes the world so fair.
Help us to do the things we should,
To be to others kind and good,
In all we do, in work or play,
To grow more loving every day.

No interruption or other sound, during the singing of the entire song.

During recess, we all ran over to the site of the burned-down building, to poke and prowl among the ruins for any chance non-combustible treasures—fused pieces of window glass, corroded nails, or odd bits of metal. This continued through the few remaining weeks of the term. The following fall those in my grade and doubtless the others, went around by the bridge, across the Wolf River to the north side school, in some way finding accommodation with those living in that district, as I remember it, the upper grade sharing one of the two rooms there. By the next year, a fine modern new schoolhouse had been completed on the site of the old one. I was proud to be one of the first generation of children to inaugurate this challenging building. The last time I visited the town, in the early 1960’s they were demolishing the old outdated structure, in favor of an up-to-date building.

Since the new Church was not quite ready for occupancy, we held services in the Opera House, then a splendid and commodious affair, still in use when I last passed by it. I report with embarrassment and regret, that I went up on the stage, while Uncle Will was busy with final preparation for the service, marched to the front and shouted, “Ba, ba ba!” Of course some of the silly worshipers thought it was funny, and giggled or laughed outright. My regimen had not yet reached the later point where I was unmercifully flogged when Uncle Will decreed that I deserved it; but I think I was silenced for the rest of the day, not permitted to utter a word ‘til Monday morning.

My Sunday School class met in the upper gallery, “peanut gallery” it was called, above the larger balcony constituting the second floor. I wouldn’t have noticed it, but another boy with better olfactory equipment, growled, “Gee! The air stinks up here!” With no doors or windows in that exalted purview, it is not surprising that the air was amply stale.

It was a thrill to enter the spanking-new Church. Here I came into close contact with my first electric lights. Simple carbon bulbs, hung from the ceiling by the old-fashioned two-strand extension wire. During the two years I lived there, the parsonage was not wired for modern lighting. While the old house in Milwaukee had no refrigeration, and perishables must be set down on the brick floor in the laundry room in the basement, usually cool enough for practical purposes, the New London place had an ice-box; something similar to our refrigerators beneath, zinc-lined wooden affair, with a door which had a elaborate latch to keep it sealed; above, a zinc-lined chamber large enough for a 50-pound cake of ice, which lasted, I think, for two days, until our neighbor Mandachke, (Aunt Marian parodied it to Handshake), delivered a fresh chunk, hauled from his ice-house on the river bank, filled each winter with chunks out from the 2-foot thick cover we could always depend on throughout the Wisconsin cold season; preserved during hot weather by being thickly covered with sawdust.

New London boasted a large sawmill on and about the river, with a “boom” or log-and chain-enclosed back-water into which logs from the still heavily-wooded country up north, were floated downstream. This had long since disappeared—only a lumber-yard now uses the riverside area.

I should have mentioned the convenience which Jack Frost provided for us—instead of walking clear down to the bridge and back north or west again, we walked across the ice to school throughout most of the term.

The customary costume of the day was blouse waist and knee-pants, with long black stockings and ankle-high shoes. For best, we had a three-piece suit, with jacket and vest. By now I think I didn’t have such velvet leggings which in Prairie du Sac were buttoned over my calves, as many as 17 buttons being fastened and unfastened every time I went out and came in. A strap which went under the instep of my shoes held the leggings down. I forget how they were held up, but I think they were rigid enough to stay in place. Especially during marble season, when kids groveled about on their knees in the dirt, my elders supplied me with knee-caps, ordered from Sears, Roebuck & Co.’s catalog, circles of shiny leather, shaped to a semi-cuplike shield, were held over the knees by two narrow elastic ribbons, snapped by miniature snaps to knobs on the opposite side of the leg. My hose thus survived for weeks. At least throughout the winter period, I’m not sure but all year round, we wore full-length underwear, mostly two-piece. Naturally our summer equipment was of gingham-weight stuff. Hands were protected by mittens, not gloves – each finger helped keep the rest from freezing, though it was a real chore to dry the cloth or leather between uses.

I liked to stop before going home from school at Mrs. Hermann’s, and chat with Kitty, a few years older and Hazel Boyington, a motherless niece. One day they cried, “Why, Newton’s nose is frozen!” They went out and brought in enough snow to rub on it until it thawed out.

Bicycling was growing in popularity. The old high-wheel affairs had given way about the time I was born, to machines much like those in use today. Shortly before his death, Father bought a bike for exercise, to try to reduce his exceedingly fat flesh. Racing, of course, was in vogue. About the time I was settled in New London the report went out that Claude Brown, an adolescent, had won the town race, and was the hero of the day.

Not far from our house was a rim factory. There were usually rejects, rims warped too badly to pass inspection; and every kid had one for a hoop. Many school children rode to school, especially those from the country. A favorite prank, which I was conspicuous for playing, was to let the air out of the tires while the owner was occupied elsewhere. A well-equipped bike had a leather case strapped to the frame, containing a small hand-pump, as well as a few simple and commonly used tools, a small oilcan, etc. At home many had a much better device, a large pump with a projection at the base so one could hold it in position with one foot; and a handle long enough for both hands to push the plunger down. Before garages were heard of, bike shops flourished; and a common service was inflation of soft tires. Tandems usually with woman’s frame in front and man’s behind, were every-day affairs; and occasionally extension to three, possibly four riders available. Roads were not dependable—Milwaukee had surfaced streets of various materials; but towns rarely had anything better than gravel upon the pure mud roadway. Soft sand scarcely facilitated propelling a bike; and winter ruts practically prohibited cycling in cold weather.

Histories inform us that modern conveniences were invented many years before I ever saw them; only gradually did they come into common use. Edison invented the incandescent light bulb in 1879—just as I moved to St. Louis, a great celebration with parade and ornamental lights everywhere, commemorated the 50th anniversary. But as I have said, I never lived with electricity until I moved into the Milwaukee YMCA dormitory in 1908; though as I mentioned, the New London Church was equipped with primitive bulbs. I remember the “plant” on the north side, a plain store-like building, with a one-lung gasoline engine, which generated enough juice to meet the limited needs of the town.

So it was with the telephone—my encyclopedia declares that Bell invented it in 1878; but no parsonage until the one in Geneseo was supplied with one. My first contact with this device was at the aforementioned Herrmann’s house—he was in real estate, and evidently well-to-do. The new instrument had just been installed; and as they had so many people on the wire, they lifted me up to the wall phone; and I got so close to it that I nearly bit a piece out of the rubber mouthpiece. Every kid with ingenuity rigged up a home-made set, with cigar boxes for sets, and store string for wires. They swore that they actually heard each other at some distance. This leads to a mention of the wide use of cotton string. Food was sold in bulk; dry stuff poured into paper sacks, and these tied with string. Grandma frugally saved every piece that came to the house, tying it to the ball she had wound from already preserved lengths—it grew until about the size of a soft-ball. Many household uses were found for it—in spring, she trained her morning-glory vines to the back porch floor, whence they climbed up the lattice which enclosed the porch.

It requires a bit of thought to grasp the fact that the 20th century didn’t begin on New Year’s 1900, but at the end of this year. What I have recounted thus far occurred in the 19th Century; and I well recall the furor attending the dawn of the 20th.

In this day of prepackaged and variously treated foodstuffs, I think our youth would be shocked if transported into an old-style grocery or general store. I have mentioned the septic bulk retailing of milk. In Milwaukee the large dairies were introducing pasteurization, which most people insisted had to do with the field from which the cows derived the raw material of the life-giving fluid. Tuberculosis was a too general affliction, perhaps the chief cause of death. Only well into this century did authorities require tuberculin testing of all dairy cows. Bread was sold in bulk—unwrapped un-sliced laves. Nobody brought up in this automotive age can visualize the cloud of flies fresh from manure piles, sick-rooms and garbage dumps, which defied the almost useless screen doors on every house and store. Cheese was sold by the slice or wedge—a round cheese lay on the guillotine platform, and was cut from center to rim by a knife attacked to a hand lever; then a small rotation of the platform, made ready for the next cut.

A common commodity was kerosene, mainly for illumination in lamps of diverse types. We had a gallon bottle encased in a tin shell, having large gaps through which me might see how far down the contents had sunk as we poured lamp-fulls from the spout at the top. Adhesive tape was unknown—every merchant had a big supply of cotton string, provided with a holder or dispenser usually broken off at the proper length by the dealer’s tough-skinned hands; and used to tie the paper-sheet-wrapped purchase, making all fast by an adept knot.

Though bread was sold as I mentioned, most of it was produced at home—one day or two a week saw baking as the day-long feature act. The commonest type of yeast (unless it was a packaged chunk of dry stuff, principally cornmeal impregnated with the enzyme) was a piece of grey stuff about like a bar of laundry soap, and sold by the slice for a penny each. The salesman took a piece of store string, and pressed it down on the cake to make a slice perhaps 3/8 inch wide—then wrapping it in a small package.

One day I was sent to the neighborhood store to get something; and I was intrigued by an ingenious device designed to cut the tip off newly-purchased cigars. With more curiosity than judgment, I put my finger down into the depression in the top of the machine, pressed slightly, and click! A spring operated knife within snipped off the end of my finger—not maiming my hand, but bringing blood to the surface. I asked the grocer, in terror, “will this bleed me to death?” The good-natured German laughed, and reassured me that the wound was not mortal.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The memories of a grandson of Dr. Moses Barrett

Dr. Moses Barrett, 1816 - 1873 was the ggggrandfather of the Barrett Brothers.
His daughter was Eliza Frances Barrett 1841 - 1909. She married William Millard.
Their daughter was Edith Holton Millard 1870 - 1895. She married Frank F. Barrett (her 4th cousin once removed).
Their son was Newton Eliot Barrett, 1890 - 1986, the grandfather of the Barrett Brothers.

The author of this letter was Robert E. Millard, a brother to Edith Holton Millard and a grandson of Dr. Moses Barrett. Robert was a flutist with the Portland, Oregon symphony orchestra.

From a letter by Robert E. Millard – Flutist
3908 Council Crest Drive
Portland, Oregon
May 7, 1939

The clipping from the Wautoma, Wisconsin paper about grandfather Barrett and the Millard tribe is an excellent one and well written too. It recalls anecdotes Mother used to tell of her childhood in that village so long ago. Once when Mother, Helen and I visited Will in Auroraville, the latter took Mother and me on a trip to Wautoma, and the visit to her childhood home brought forth many anecdotes of her sire, the rifleman-doctor of that country. After a light fall of snow in the late autumn about the year of Grace 1849 the rural aesculapius would, according to Mother, get out a chunk of lead and a small iron melting pot, and proceed to cast rifle bullets over the kitchen stove in preparation for a deer hunt on the following day. He was a fine marksman, was Dr. Moses Barrett, and Mother said he was the only man anywhere around who could hit a flying pigeon with a rifle bullet. If he could that, and Mother solemnly swore to it, I can readily believe that he was the only one in the neighborhood who could do it, because such a feat with a rifle is a darned good one; more than that, it is artistry. Evidently this Moses, the medical marksman, observed as his first and greatest commandment, “Thou shalt not waste ammunition.”

Mother said that once he offered $5.00 to anyone who would bring him a specimen of a bald eagle for his collection. (This was after his practice had developed and he had not much time to go hunting.) One of the Bugh boys, who were hunters, reported one day that they had sighted a bald eagle, but that it was too far away to hit; “If you would have been there, Doc, you’d have got him.”

Mother said that once a blacksmith living some miles away had the misfortune to drop an anvil on his big toe, and he was brought in a wagon to Grandfather’s house for treatment. The patient was laid on his back with his head and shoulders inside the front door and his legs outside where the light was good. Then grandmother, who was a stout woman, sat on his let to hold it still. Mother bathed his temples with camphor (miserable substitute for anesthesia) and grandfather whacked off the mutilated digit with a knife which he had honed on the family Bible. We may justly be proud of our hardy forbears, but think of the pride the descendants of the blacksmith must feel!

An imaginative biographer of the smith might refer to the latter love and enthusiasm for football in the early days of that sport, manifesting itself in practicing the dropkick with the anvil!

Ah! Those were the days when men were men – and the women were glad of it.