Archive for October, 2008

Amos and Susanna Black

What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance.
They give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humor, comfort, lessons in life.
And, most importantly, cookies.
[Rudolph Giuliani]

Susanna and Amos Black

Susanna and Amos Black, c. 1890

I loved to go to town with Grandpa Jim in the horse and buggy because, while he was buying groceries or visiting with old friends, I would get to go to my Grandmother Black’s. Her name was Sue Ann. Grandpa Black, Amos, Grandpa Amos, had come to Cherryvale many years before as an employee of the Pennsylvania Railroad. He was a bridge builder and trestle builder for the railroad. When he got to Kansas, the railroad was dividing out and spreading this way and that all over the country and he finally ended up working for the Santa Fe because it spread faster than the Pennsylvania at the time. When he sent back to Pennsylvania for his family, there was Grandma Sue and three, four children, three children, four children (laughs). I forgot how many! Robert, Rose, Alice, and my father Harry.

Well, they had to prepare for this long train ride which took them about four days from Johnstown, Pennsylvania to Cherryvale, Kansas. And of course there were no ways of getting food on this trip, at that time, or sleep, so she had to prepare food to last four children and her, that many days. It was stored in a huge brown basket—hand woven basket. Mostly meat she had cooked, baked and sliced, would keep longer so they had that and lots and lots of hard boiled eggs because those would keep. I don’t know what they did for drinks, but anyway, they made it to Kansas.


Amos Black built his family this home in Cherryvale, KS

When they got there Grandpa had a home he had rented. In the meantime Cherryvale was growing and they were selling downtown lots to business people who would help the town grow larger, so Grandpa Black bought two blocks of business building lots and in the years that followed he had built businesses on all of those two blocks and rented them to prospective business people, saving a corner of one of the lots practically in the center of town, he built a big two story house and that’s where I used to visit my grandparents. It’s still standing. Not too many years ago I drove over to Cherryvale to see how it looked. One time when we were out there on vacation and I sat out in front of that big house, trying to get up courage to go inside and tell the people how long ago I used to visit there, but I didn’t make it. Somehow I felt it was an intrusion on their privacy and I appreciated that and drove away. The only difference in the old house was the big wrap around porch was gone. Of course I suppose through neglected and ages of weather it deteriorated and was torn away, but anyway that was a delightful place to go. [ed.—Rachel’ made her trip to Cherryvale around 1980.]

Grandma Black was a very strict lady. She was of Quaker stock and serious as could be. She had a work basket that I used to straighten up for her. I thought I was doing her a great favor, I don’t know whether she liked it or not, but I’d see that all the spools were wrapped neatly and put in a row and that was a great thing was to clean up Grandma Black’s sewing basket. And I had a shelf, on the lower shelf in her pantry, that was mine. She told me I could keep all my toys there and anything I wanted to cherish and hold on to I put on my shelf and nobody would bother it. Of course I was the youngest granddaughter and probably, now that I look back, favored an awful lot.

The following is an MP3 audio file of Mama telling the same story as quoted above:


(Editor’s note: One must remember that memory is often faulty. One reference says that Grandma Sue was actually named Susan and her family was German Baptist or Dunkard Brethern.)

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The Hatchlings

The song-birds leave us at the summer’s close,
Only the empty nests are left behind,
And pipings of the quail among the sheaves.

[Henry Wadsworth Longfellow]


clip1_story5Grandpa Jim came home from town one day, saying that he knew where he could get a pony for me providing my parents thought it was okay. Seems this other family had children who had outgrown the pony and they were wanting to find it a nice home. So, the pony was brought to the farm. It was bay and white spotted, half Indian pony and half Shetland. It was very gentle and a dear thing. I loved it and rode it to death probably.

I used to carry water to the farm hands as they were out in the field working. Mid morning my mother would send a cold drink and a snack of some kind— cookies and so forth—to them. I always rode out with it. Mid afternoon, when she knew they were at the end of the field where the trees gave them shade, I went out again with another snack and cold drink. And that was, I felt, very important because they were so glad to get it.

One time I went to the hay field where my father was mowing. When I got to him he said, “I have something for you in this little box.” He said, “I accidentally mowed over quail nest and so I put the eggs in here and you can take them to the house. We’ll watch them hatch.”

I thought that was a great idea so I hurried back with the quail eggs, but on the way I realized that this box I was carrying was Chipping. “Chip, chip, chip, chip, chip, chip, chip.” Well, I of course didn’t know what was happening, but when I got home I told my mother what I had in the box.

She said, “Well I hear it too. I hear this chipping. Let’s open it and see what happened.” We opened the box and out jumped these little quail. They were about to hatch, and it was so warm with me carrying them along in the sun so they did hatch on the way back to the house. They hopped out of that basket box and scurried all over the house.

The first thing mother did was shut the cat up so it couldn’t get any of them. We were all afternoon hunting those little quail. As we’d catch one I’d run out to the back lot and turn it loose in the bushes because there were quail out there and we knew they’d be okay since they are prepared to run and hunt food for themselves. About evening we were through catching seven little quail.

My father had a good laugh when he came back in that evening. Of course he didn’t realize that they were that near hatching, but anyway we had fun over the whole deal, and the cat was shut up in the clothes closet.

The following is an MP3 audio file of Mama telling the same story as quoted above:

Photo Source: Ohio Department of Natural Resources

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