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Letter from Ethel Crow, Nashville, Tennessee, June 28, 1988 to Jeanne Turley, genealogist from Festus, MO
Transcribed by Lisa K. Gendron (spelling has been left as written)
Here it is almost the 4th of July and I hope it's cooler up there on your hill than it is here in Nashville.
I hear the news and see the shots of how low the Mississippi is and realize that the Joachim must be very, very low too and that affects the water supply for your trees and other vegetation as well as your house hold needs. On the other hand luck may have been with you and you've been blessed with rain.
This takes me way back to one year in Hematite, when it rained so much we couldn't get the yards cut and as a result the seeds that fell from the little maple trees in the side yard took root and the yard was full of little maple trees.
And I remember one time when Margaret and Jethro Williams lived in a little house down back of Jarvis store. They woke up one night, their bed surrounded by water, and climbed out the window just in time. A flashflood up the creek somewhere had caused the swirl of water around them. And washed the shack away.
I've seen the creek up nearly to the bridge. And I remember when the creek was up, more rain came and the train went off the track up toward Bailey Bridge, because Mr. Green, the section foreman, went to bed and went to sleep instead of getting out and checking the tracks and the rain pouring down.
I wasn't home at the time. I was working in St. Louis. The glass factory was shut down at the time. That was about 1939.
I remember the dust storms, the drouth in Oklahoma and the dust from the dust storms blew to Missouri, blew to Hematite, and the dust brought with it seeds of plants that had never grown there before. A tiger lilly came up along that row of perennials that grew between our yard and Thusens. It had never been planted there.
I remember Doc's oldest sister Leaha, who lived with the youngest sister Miss Alta in an upstairs apartment on Main Street up past Mill. (*this refers to Jesse, Lelia & Alta Donnell) She told about going on a picnic across the creek with her sister and all her brothers. She heard a roaring, knew it was a flash flood coming down the creek, got her siblings across to safety before the flood of water came hurling down. She was a big talker, a braggart. I didn't like her much. Her husband died and she had a milinary shop in Hematite for a while. That always made me laugh. I've never been able to figure out where it was.
Another story she used to tell was about when they lived near Brickey's Landing during the Civil War. She was just a little girl, the Union soldiers came and took over their house and slept in their beds with their boots on.
I suddenly realize that your grandmother never seemed like she was related to the other two sisters. She was so much nicer. And petite and pretty. I remember her best at their Golden Wedding Anniversary Celebration. She wore a lavender dress and your grandfather Ogle looked so tall and handsome.
Well, that's all a long time ago now. I'm 81½ now. And I don't get around as well as I used to. I used to take long hikes, walk for miles, climb the bluff along the Joachim at Hematite. Now I've even quit walking to the store with my shopping cart. Now a friend takes me in her car. Still I feel lucky. I get around the house and up on the porch each morning with letters for the mail carrier and to get the mail.
It seems a little strange that you are 70 now. I remember you as you were the last time I saw you and that's OK. It keeps you young.
An uncle, Ben England, lived at the Brickey's Landing house. I was there once. He had a son who married a Rutledge girl in Ste. Genevieve. They had 3 daughters, Angie, Charlotte, and I don't remember the name of the middle one. Charlotte was the youngest one I believe, and was said to be by a young man a lot younger than the England. Angie married a dentist and lived across the street from us in Hematite for a while. A lot of people lived there. First your uncle Tom Simcock, then you and your mom, then you and Deedee lived there. That's when I had the flower garden and someone stole the flower you picked out. I can't remember her name now.
There are so many things to remember. There was the time we saw two Bette Davis movies in one night by running the stop light at the Crystal Festus highway intersection. And a long time before that you & your mother walked out to the O'Neill farm where we lived then, and we walked down to a little branch of water to eat our lunch. You said you had never climbed a tree so we climbed one and it was full of walking sticks. And I've never seen any since, although I've seen lots of other kinds of bugs and insects. Let's forget them now.
I'm glad we became friends even though you are a lot younger than me. What I find fascinating is that through our once or twice a year letters, I have learned that you were born at the Big House on the Hill. That your grandmother and grandfather lived there. I have the feeling that they did a better job of running the farm than anyone else ever did. They were real farmers.
Last year my nephew Paul and his wife Penny talked about driving to Nashville in October to come and get me and take me to St. Louis and other areas on a visit. The first thing I I thought of was I'll get them to drive me down to Jeanne. But these plans fell through and it didn't happen.
You know when you think about it, your story is the story of a family dating back to long before America was America, bull of the adventures, the activities, the hurts, the heartaches, the happinesses, the fulfillments, the accomplishments of one generation after another. The joys, the knowledge that you have played a leading role in the drama of life.
You have done so much for so many. Love and responsibility, family pride and consideration and kindness and belief in yourself and others have been the lodestar, the guiding light that has lead you to all your joys and happinesses and helped and healed you through your griefs, sorrows and losses.
Happy Fourth of July to you and yours.
With love and remembrance,
P.S. From 100° in the day time, 79° at night, it dropped to 45° last night. What a wonderful relief.