Archive for October 21st, 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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