For the past 6 years I have written about our adventures as the second family to live in our 1928 bungalow. A good deal of that has been about Bess and Helen, the mother and daughter who built Foxcroft in 1928.
However for the bungalow blog tour rather than focus on their now well documented story, I am going to tell a bit about my own family members who were contemporaries of the builders.
I went to Remsen, in northwest Iowa with my dad last weekend. The purpose of the trip ostensibly was for me to collect some cuttings of climbing roses and also some hops that all came from the oldest farmstead in my family. We traveled about 6 and half hours north while simultaneous going back about 50 years in time.
We pulled into my Aunt Martha's apartment about 1:00 on Friday afternoon. Martha is one of my dad's older twin sisters, she is 80. When I was a young boy she would have been referred to as a spinster. Martha never married and lived with my grandparents until they both passed away in their 90's. Her place is two blocks from my grandparent's old home, but in a town of 1,000 nothing is too far apart. Aunt Helen, my dad's younger sister, was at the apartment too with her new 6 month old grandchild. At 71, Helen is the baby of the family. Helen is at the left, Martha in the middle
After we had been there about 15 minutes Helen said to Martha, "Should we give Mike his coffee pot?" and Martha hurried away into the back room. She came back with an old enamel coffee pot, and said, "Look inside." Both she and Helen were looking like the cat who ate the canary.
After taking off the lid, I found a note inside a plastic bag. It read:
My Mom always kept her seeds inside this coffee pot. It hung in the store room over the kitchen on the farm. It was still there when we moved on in 1953. Glad John left it there for us. Mom put seeds in the little sacks.
Also inside the bag were two small cloth bags. One faintly said "onion seed" the other said "lady slippers."
Under that was a paper bag with onions, and two glass jars of white beans and two more jars of peas.
"It's from Aunt Florence." said Helen.
Aunt Florence is my great aunt. She is my grandmother's youngest sister. Being only 6 years older than Martha, and 16 years younger than her oldest sister, my grandmother, she was more like a cousin than an aunt to her nieces and nephews.
Florence and her husband had moved onto the family farm she had grown up on in '53 after her older brother, John, had bought a farm in South Dakota. This apparently caused some friction among the eight siblings. I was told this as my dad, Helen and Martha explained the contents of the coffee pot. The "my Mom" referred to in the note was my great grandmother Mary Marx Colling. That is her picture at the top of this post. It is was taken in roughly 1900, eight years before she married and nine before my grandmother was born. That picture is part of a group shot of Mary and her nine brothers and sisters. Mary died in 1965, I just barely remember her. Mary was born in 1885 (Bess Fox was born in 1882 and died in 1970) She married Fred Colling in 1908 and they moved on to a farm that Mary's grandparents had lived on in 1913.
After looking through everything in the coffee pot Martha called Florence. Martha told Florence said we were coming to visit. We then drove to Granville, and even smaller, more remote town than Remsen. Florence is preparing to move into a nursing home near her son in Omaha in August. Her husband passed nearly ten years ago. They moved in to town 20 years ago.
This is the first year since 1953 that Florence had not used the seeds in the coffee pot because that is where she stored the seeds that she saved. Since she will move before the growing season is over she "wasn't going to bother" (an exact quote) to plant this year. Florence told me the beans and peas in the coffee pot were the same ones her mother grew. I asked if it was possible that Mary's parents or grandparents had grown them and passed them on to her. "Yes." was the answer.
I already had some peas from my Great Aunt Marion (Florence and my grandmother's sister) but these are different. We also dug from her back yard a red climbing rose and white climber too. She moved these and the hops from the farm when they came to town. What I am most interested in however are the hops. Florence said these were strictly grown for ornamental purposes, but when I consider that she was born during prohibition, I'm sure that's what she was always told...
Here are the hops are on my fence. I'll be optimistic.
I have already given away peas, beans and onions for planting to Sue and Jean at work and my neighbor, Mike. But the best part is that when I came home on Saturday I immediately went to our garden. My youngest has decided to have her own portion of the garden this year so I watched her plant peas and beans just like 7 generations of her family before her...
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