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Mt Zion Historical Society

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Remembering 1886-1895 Life in Mt Zion area of Jay Township
As written by Nora Ovel Burke
and contributed by Bob Nay-great grandson


Joe(1874-1959) and Nora(Ovel)(1881-1952) Burke
Mt Zion Road, Weedville, PA




Notes from Nora Burke: After reading the clipping following on pages 126 to 129, I ( Nora) decided to record some happenings of my young days during those same years.

I was born in the year of 1881 and started to school when I was five years old. It was a small one room school house – sometime there were only ten pupils, sometime 20 according as families moved to this neighborhood or moved away. I think the teachers received about $30.00 a month and paid about $8.00 a month for board. They boarded at the home of one of the pupils. As years passed I think both the salary and the board increased in price. That little (Gray) school house is the only school I ever attended. That was to my 15th year.

My mother was a very efficient house keeper and general worker and a fine business woman. We had a farm of medium size, maybe 30 acres of cleared farm land, kept about 3 milk cows, a flock of sheep (15 or 20), some pigs and chickens. In those days we fenced our crops and let the cows and sheep run loose to pick or graze their living through spring, summer and fall. Mother made plenty of butter (very good job).

On Saturday P.M. it was like a holiday for us. Mother and Dad would hitch the team to our two seated hack (that’s a light spring wagon) and we would drive to town either to Caledonia or Benezett to trade the butter and eggs for groceries. Some times there would be other farm produce to sell or trade such as fruit or vegetables or maybe a butchered lamb. We always had lots to eat at home due to mother’s thriftiness and planning. Hundreds of quarts of home canned fruit each year. Two or three butchered hogs, some put in brine, canned sausage for keeping the year around. On Sundays or holidays we had chicken dinner.

Then through the summer when we wanted a special spell of meat we would butcher a good size lamb, likely sell half of it and put the other half on ice to keep a few days till we got it eaten. We always had our ice house full of ice buried in sawdust. In the winter time when they sawed it out of ponds or deep creeks and hauled it home on sleds with the team of horses. These blocks of ice would keep well until the last of July or first of August so we could make ice cream on Sundays. Our neighbors enjoyed coming to our house to eat ice cream.

On Saturdays, mother made a habit of baking cake and pie. Always the cookie crocks contained white cookies, ginger cookies and doughnuts. She never allowed us to stuff or over eat on the pastries. We had enough and plenty. When company came she was never caught unprepared.

When I was a child I didn’t realize what a wonderful manager she was but as I grew older I appreciated these fine business habits and thrift, and wished I had told here so but when young it seemed to me like just a lot of hard work. Many other neighbors were grand workers too, while quite a number lived skimpy both as to food and clothes because they knew not how to manage or in some instances it may have been laziness or ignorance.

For about 14 years we lived in an old fashioned unpainted farm house. Upstairs there were three bedrooms and an attic room. Downstairs was a good size living room (called sitting room then), two small bed rooms – two pantries, a fair size kitchen, we ate in our kitchen. Our kitchen was plain (middle class style). We had rag carpet in two rooms – the living room and spare bed room. Mother sewed the rags, then in the afternoon when the house work was all done she walked to a neighbor’s house and used their carpet weaving loom to weave our carpet. She wove extra yard for strips to put on the floor as rugs where we did the most walking. She made window curtains of cheese cloth. We thought it looked very nice.

The wool peddler came once a year with his big covered wagon and team. Then we traded the sheared wool for wool bed blankets, yarn and for yard goods that mother used to make up into coats, dresses, underwear for the whole family. Dad’s pants and lumber jack coat. From the age of 8 years we were taught to knit our own stockings and mittens. In winter we were warmly clad. So when we were fully dressed we looked quite plump. Likely folds now would sooner go cold than wear such thick clothing. Our folks had about 80 acres of timber land. They sold logs or use them for their farm and home. Then hauled logs to the sawmill to be sawed into lumber for their new house. The sawmill burned down one night and they lost all their lumber. So they cut more logs and hauled them to another mill. Then they built a large twelve room house with a cellar under the entire house. The carpenters came there and stayed while building the house. He got $125.00 dollars and his board and room. I think it was the year of 1896.

My grandparents lived twenty-four miles from our place. Every so often we drove there for a week end visit. Sometime we drove the team and hack – other times one horse and buggy. Those trips and visits are one of the nicest memories of my life.

I also cherish the memories of the way we observed and celebrated holy days and holidays. Of course Christmas was the best of all. Always spent at home with our tree, new toys and special eats. In our estimation no other place could be half so grand. Mother always prepared for and observed every holiday (no matter how unimportant) in the proper manner. Such fun. On 4th of July we went to town. Maybe it wasn’t much of a celebration but we thought so, for that was when we ate at a hotel, watched folks dance on the pavilion and saw a parade, and ate extra amounts of candy, peanuts and oranges. Several times in the course of our childhood Mother took us to an animal circus. Then we were sure we had seen everything in this world worth seeing. As far back as I can remember Sister Stella and I attended Sunday school at Mt. Zion. (Except when we had gone to visit Grandma) Nancy and William Luce always stopped for us as they drove by in their two seated hack. We had church service every other Sunday P.M. and Sunday school each Sunday. Mother attended then (Sunday school that Sunday as it was just before the preaching service. The preacher, Rev Ebersole on his twice a month trip from Sterling Run to Toby nearly always stopped (He and his good wife) at our place over night. The spare bed room was always ready for them or any other visitor.

These are a few of the incidents of life as I remember them from about 1886 to 1895.

Nora Burke





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