12.30.2011

Clotheshorse

The Clotheshorse, aka drying rack. I grew up using one, and have had one one off and all my life. I now am using it exclusively for all my winter drying and to supplement my clothesline drying in the summer when necessary. It saves a considerable amount of money on our monthly electric bill, and provides much needed (and appreciated) humidity in the home...

12.26.2011

Coop

Coop Door - 2010 [Click to see larger version]
Grape Vine Ivey is growing on, and INSIDE, the chicken coop of my childhood homestead.

Once, at age 3, I chased a cat through that door...

12.06.2011

Brick Wall

Carpenter:  A few of my Great
Grandfather's tools...

You could tell my Grandma was a daughter of an Irish carpenter; she knew how to design, build and repair just about anything.

I still have her father's carpenter saw box, and use it to hold books I'm reading. It's dark with age, but still strong. His old saw is with me now, too,  inherited from my parents after they broke up housekeeping. The wood handle has a soft patina from years of use.

William Fitzgerald married a Prince Edward Island wealthy farmer's daughter, took her half-way across a continent to Minnesota, where they did whatever they had to, to make a living. I know very little about him, but what I do know is not good.  He was known as "...a man of intemperate means", and died that way -  run over by a train, 5 years after his wife died shortly after giving birth to their 14th child.
Mom had told me that one time he came home and Mom was only 7 years old, and was ironing clothes with the old flat irons, and he got abusive with Mom's mother.  Mom took after him with the hot iron, threatening him to leave her mother alone.   He responded, "And who is going to stop me?" And she said, "I am, and I have two brothers out there looking in the window that will help me." After that, she said he was pretty docile when he'd come home drunk.  Mom didn't like her Dad very much.  In all the conversations we had during the time Mom lived with me never once did I ask what his father's and mother's names were...  - From a letter written to me on May 15, 1990 by my Aunt Pat (Alberta Fitzpatrick)
Article describing my Great
Grandfather's horrific demise,
Hallock Weekly News
Saturday, July 26, 1913
[Click to Enlarge & Read...]
No known photographs exist of either Great Grandpa Fitzgerald or his wife, Elizabeth Clow - it was through following her family line that I came to know what little I do.   If it wasn't for his notorious death, a handful of newspaper references of his life, and the tools he left behind, I would have nothing to go on at all.

My great grandfather's end came in a most gruesome, but not entirely surprising, manner.  The article to the right describes in graphic detail what became of him.  The events leading up to the "accident" are speculative but likely, based on his activity just prior to the event.  The Kittson County Enterprise, July 1913, had the following article about the aftermath:
William Fitzgerald, a pioneer citizen of St. Vincent, was run down and killed by a Canadian Northern train near Emerson last Saturday night.  Coroner R.B. Johnson was summoned but upon reaching the scene found that although the victim was a Kittson County man, the accident had happened over in Canada, and therefore could not exercise any authority in the case.  The body had been so ground up by the cars that the remains had to be gathered in a sack.
This item was used to carry
 items from the larger tool
chest to the work-site.
Approximately 140 yrs old.
When I discovered the newspaper articles about his death several years ago in the microfilms of the Kittson County Museum, I tried to obtain a death certificate for William.  According to both North Dakota and Minnesota, as well as Manitoba, none of them had a death record of any sort on file for him.  After reading the above about the confusion at the time of exactly where he died, it appears he fell through the cracks for that particular record!

I have no proof of the following, it's purely conjecture:  William's oldest record is a census record in 1881 PEI where he is listed as a farm hand in the Samuel Clow household, with a place of origin listed as "N.S.", or Nova Scotia.  Down the list of sons and daughters of Samuel is Elizabeth, who he would marry later that year.  I have wondered if he may have been Catholic while the Clow family he married into were most definitely Protestant.

I have attempted on my own to mine the records of PEI and Nova Scotia to no clear end, and I have attempted to hire professional genealogists, who have looked at the case and told me they can't crack him.  He is my 'holy grail', my brick wall...

Box insert to tool chest, with drawing knife, square/mitre/ruler/level,
and hand awl. All items are approximately 140 years old.

UPDATE: At the end of August 2013, I was contacted by someone who thought they may have information to help me break down my brick wall.  The initial news was very exciting, because it sounded like it was 'my' Great Grandparents.  It turned out not to be the case.  But there is a connection.  I have found that one of her relatives married one of my relatives, and there was an uncanny coincidence of the names - a James William Fitzgerald marrying an Elizabeth Jane Clow. However, it was not my great grandfather, William Fitzgerald or my great grandmother Elizabeth Jane Clow.   But Great Grandma was the Aunt to the other Elizabeth Jane Clow. How? The other Elizabeth's father was Marcus Clow...Great Grandma's brother!  So far, I haven't found anything further, but it's worth looking closer at this other family line, just in case.  Fingers are crossed!

9.12.2011

7.09.2011

Old-Style Hacking

When I was a little girl, our 'sidewalks' were made out of wood.

To be more exact, the sidewalk was made out of what my Mom and Dad called "grain doors".

When it rained, they were as slippery as snot, which I found out by running on them, only to slip and fall hard on my backside.

Before my folks put the grain doors down, there was no sidewalk at all.  The doors were what people nowadays would call a hack - a creative solution to a need, often using recycled products.  Back then it was called common sense and making do.

6.11.2011

Hanging Clothes

We dried everything on the line when I was growing up.1

Today, I'm hanging clothes out for the first time this spring. The weather is iffy, but I'm going for it. I figure if they get wet, it's rain water, the best there is...and they'll dry eventually.

Nothing stopped Grandma Fitzpatrick
from hanging clothes - not even floods!
I love it all out on the line. And I actually LIKE the stiffness line drying can put in things like sheets. At least the old-fashioned heavy cotton white ones. The ones you buy now are so limp and wimpy - they are not as heavy and don't last as long. I decided to find some and did (online) - linen, heavy weight, white, and a bit pricey. But they will be well worth it if they are as advertised.  They'll last, and we'll enjoy them while they do.

Once again, I will jump into a bed made with freshly dried sheets - not just the smell of the outdoors but the stiff crisp FEELING of them.




1 - We used to find twigs and worms and other bugs snuggled into the creases as we took items out of the basket and folded them. All part of the process.


2.13.2011

Mom's Sewing Machine

I learned to sew on this machine... 
[Photo:  Betty Jean Short Thorsvig]
Earlier today, my sister Betty posted about our mother's old Singer sewing machine.  Mom passed it on to Betty, and over the years it has served (and still does) her well.  They don't make 'em like that anymore. It's the one I learned on.

Workhorses, that's what the old Singers are.  Solid metal throughout, working parts made with clockwork precision.  My Mom always said, keep it clean and well-oiled, and it'll serve you all your life.  But they're more than workhorses - they are things of beauty.
I remember when I joined the Humboldt Stick-to-It 4-H club.  I was 9 years old, and I did two projects - food and sewing.  For sewing, I had to demonstrate I had learned the goals of the project by sewing a simple garment;  I chose an apron.  I was entering the strange world where you had to measure once then measure again, and precision was preached.  Exactness was the gospel, and nothing less than aspiring to (and hopefully achieving) excellence would do.  There were right and wrong sides to fabric, you did not 'go against the grain'.  If you were daring enough to choose a complex pattern, you soon learned the art of matching  so a pocket would blend in like camouflage.  Inset sleeves and zippers were years away.

I completed that apron - a purple, green and white floral calico print - on my mother's old Singer.

1.16.2011

"Make a wish..."

From our recent chicken 
dinner roast - Bill won!


A tradition my family practiced, not only at Thanksgiving, but whenever we had a chicken throughout the year, was drying the wishbone, then later pulling it for a wish.