[This article was published in the July 2000 issue of the Bull Sheet]
A Brougham Family Manuscript
Note from the editor.. In 1952, my grandfather's brother, the late Charles Francis Brougham, authored the following article for the family records..
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"My First 21 Years"
Father, Mother, Four Brothers, Three Sisters
By Charles Francis Brougham, Seaford, Delaware, May 15, 1952..
Early this morning, before breakfast time, I became 79 years and six months old.
I am thinking of the 21 years that I spent living and learning at home with father, mother, four brothers and three sisters before my 21st birthday - the day that I was married.
During that 21 years, parental influence was paramount in my life, as I now remember it - with a deep feeling of gratitude.
"On a very cold morning, before breakfast time," I was born November 15, 1872, at Humboldt, Humboldt County, Iowa (the Hawk-eye State), in the 4-room log cabin home of my grandfather, Liba Granger Spring, age 52; my grandmother, Irene Elizabeth (Wade), age 42; my aunt, Louise O. Spring, age 9; my father, Robert Francis Brougham, age 25; and my mother, Alice Cecilia (Spring), age 21. They named me "Charles Francis."
My parents were married March 22, 1871, in Tioga County, New York. They were teaching school in two neighborhood districts near Owego, New York, and when their schools were closed for the customary summer vacation, they decided to leave at once for a visit with mother's parents at Humboldt, Iowa.
There was at that time a scarcity of teachers in the western states. Thousands of immigrants had been admitted under provisions of the "Homestead Act," enacted by Congress in 1862.
Many children of these immigrants had difficulty in expressing themselves excepting in their mother tongue, and talked what was called broken English, which certainly needed mending by school teachers.
Father and mother were assigned to schools so near together outside the village of Humboldt that they could easily walk to their schools, carrying their lunches in tin dinner pails.
On their way home from school, along the shady tree-lined pathways and before coming in sight of each other, father would whistle the "bob-white" of the male quail, and mother would answer the "bob-bob-white" of the female.
Humboldt County paid its district school teachers nine dollars a week, while Tioga County, N.Y., paid its county school teachers only four dollars a week - quite a difference in calculating the possible savings for future family expenses!
In those days, school children did not patronize barber shops and beauty parlors. School teachers trimmed unruly locks and applied ointment to scalps to destroy lice and larvae, taught the rules for personal cleanliness, oral hygiene and first aid methods - as well as "Readin,' Ritin, and Rithmetic."
Mother had a "Homeopathic Doctor Book" and studied it in order to be able to recognize incipient contagious disease symptoms, but she "never prescribed any remedies or treatments that were not commonly concocted or brewed at home or obtainable at stores 'ready-for-use' as described on the package label." The local doctor was seldom available except in emergency cases.
At the ending of father's next term of school after I was born, I "persuaded" my parents to go back to Tioga County, N.Y., and introduce me to my relatives.
On arrival in Owego, N.Y., we were met and driven nine miles to grandfather Brougham's farm, where we were expected by the family and neighbors.
Some years later, father told me that on my first visit "East," I passed a thorough examination by learned persons, male and female, who granted me a perfect physical and mental score, "cum laude," attested by all the women present at the farm on that visit.
Father soon was hired by the owners of a general store in Richford, Tioga County, N.Y., as clerk and bookkeeper, and in Richford we began housekeeping. My first brother, Archie Lee, was born in Richford on the 8th of June, 1876.
Soon after I became four years old, grandpa Brougham died, at age 68, from an attack of Acute Gastritis. I remember that on several occasions I went with him to the back-kitchen at the farm and saw him fill a white cup with water, take down a package of baking soda from the shelf of a large cupboard and stir in two heaping spoonfuls and "drink it for his stomach's sake."
At grandpa's funeral I was lifted high and told to see him through the pane of glass in the lid of his coffin which rested on two crossbars. All I remember seeing was my own reflection in that pane of glass. However, I was to ride in a beautiful carriage with the family to see my dear grandpa buried in the family plot in the cemetery at Newark Valley, New York.
Father was then needed to manage the farm work for grandma Brougham and his maiden sister, Lydia.
We moved from Richford to the farm and when the estate came up for final settlement, father arranged with the other heirs to buy the farm with all the livestock and equipment, and to have grandma and aunt Lydia live with us as members of our household.
I was sent to school at once with the teacher who came to board at our house. We usually went the half-mile down the road to the school house hand-in-hand. Entering the school, the pupils and teacher hung their wraps and tin dinner pails on pegs in the entrance hall.
During winter weather the food became frozen, but we thawed it at the red-hot sheet-iron stove in the center of the schoolroom. How well do I remember! Nothing so good for us ever tasted so good!
We children enjoyed the spirited games we played at recess time on the school grounds. It was there that I fell in love with a lively 5-year-old playmate named Clara Briggs. (I wonder who's kissing her now.)
During the winter, father taught school in a district about six miles from home. One fine day he took me in our sleigh with him. It was an exciting day for us both - father had trouble preserving order. His pupils were successful in giving me the time of my life. Whatever was slyly done, "Who-dunit?" was the question. On the way home, my dear father told me that I had acted "like a monkey." He never again offered to take me with him to school.
My second brother, Herbert Bruce, was born at the farm when I was about six years old. He was a very welcome addition to our family, and grandma Brougham called him her "Little Robin Redbreast" - Archie whimpered pitifully "But I'se orr Schicken Jool" - just a little jealous, but he, too, loved his beautiful little brother.
A little before my 8th birthday, father rented the farm to an industrious young farmer and then moved us to the thriving village of Owego, the county seat of Tioga County, N.Y. He had secured a job as clerk and bookkeeper in a hardware store. He settled us in a large house near the beautiful Susquehanna River. There were a number of boys living on our street, and being about my own age, we formed a perfect group for fun and frolic. We played duck-on-a-rock, leap-frog, follow-the-leader, pitched horseshoes, baseball, and indulged in a little noisy mischief occasionally, not bad, but noisy enough to upset the temper of a certain reputable gentleman whom we named "Old Grouch."
I was entered in the 5th grade of the "brick" school, where there were many boys and girls with whom to get acquainted and to compete with for good marks. I have a photograph of 60 of us 5th grade pupils grouped on the entrance steps with Miss Chitry, our teacher.
The following year, my third brother, Louis Wilbur, was born in Owego on Bell Street, and early in the summer before my 9th birthday, as soon as school vacation was nearly due, mother began planning to take a trip "West" to visit our relatives and other acquaintances of her girlhood school days, taking Archie, Herbert, Louis and myself with her.
After letters were written, invitations received, trunk and satchel packed, tickets secured, train arrived and father kissed all 'round, we climbed aboard and were on our way to Humboldt, Iowa - the village where I was born!
Traveling was very slow in 1881, with long waits at all connection points. Louis, the baby, was constantly in mother's care and I was the constant restraining influence on the antics and surprising variety of interests shown by Archie and Herbert, who thought nothing wrong in playing get-lost and actually running away from me in separate directions - no matter how pleasantly I tried to interest them in interesting sights and sounds.
Finally, after Archie had been jolted off his seat in the caboose, killing a fly on the floor with a swat with the palm of his right hand and wavering between an impulse to cry loudly or to laugh gleefully on account of his victory, we actually arrived, at long last, at our destination - riding in the caboose of a tardy freight train!
As soon as we had been joyfully received at the home of grandpa Spring, we three older boys acted as though we were getting well-acquainted and began to feel "at home" with "big" grandpa, "little" grandma, and "middle-sized" aunt Lu, and after eating some of grandma's goodies, Archie, Herbert and I left with our big grandpa to visit with his friends at the store, the barber shop, the blacksmith shop, and persons we met on the street. Grandpa seemed to be very proud to introduce each of us to his acquaintances.
We boys were very happy to be visitin' so far away from our usual haunts, and I looked forward to the time when the story of our travels "Way Out West" would be exciting enough to relate to our home playmates, and even to older persons in Owego who had not seen the western country.
We boys were allowed to roam the nearby flower-covered fields and hunt for gopher holes, catching little frogs for fish bait, and to go with grandpa to catch black bass at the wide dam in the Des Moines River.
One day I overheard grandpa telling some neighbors that "the oldest boy" had landed a fighting black-bass that weighed "three pounds dressed." Then I had a time of feeling very proud of my prowess and thankful for grandpa's boasting.
The village children looked us over; we became acquainted easily and much running, jumping and other show-off sports were had by all - and while men were pitching horseshoes down beside the blacksmith shop and our grandpa won, we cheered lustily for "our side."
Taking all the good times together, we boys and our dear mother had a visit in Humboldt - the place where I was born - long to be remembered and never to be forgotten!
Our next destination was to visit the family of one of mother's girlhood school friends who had married a gentleman named Ketcham, who was settled on a large prairie farm in Kansas. So, goodbye to Humboldt and our dear ones who bade us godspeed.
We children eagerly began exploration of that splendidly arranged farm that was stocked with horses, mules, cows, hogs, sheep, poultry of all kinds, a billy-goat (to be avoided) and a frisky dog that chased cats and kittens to the cat-hole under the barn!
We were much interested also in whatever was to be seen in the large barn and the other buildings near it - the horse stalls, the cow stanchions where cows are fastened at milking time, the harness room, the feed bins, the hay loft, the carriage floor, the shed for wagons and farm implements, the pig-pens, the corn cribs, and the poultry houses.
We were cautioned to keep away from the animals and out of the way of the help, and to never strew things around out of place. We were allowed to help feed the poultry and to help gather eggs at the proper time, and always under adult supervision.
One day a storm threatened and drove us all indoors. It soon became a tornado, and we were excitedly ordered to run for the "Cyclone Cellar" - about a hundred feet from the house. Noses were counted down there - I was missing! They rescued me from a post of the barbed wire fence where I was hanging on for dear life and yelling for help. When we came up from the safety shelter, we saw the havoc wrought by the tornado. The house had been moved a foot or more off its foundation, windows cracked or shattered, small buildings wrecked, and contents blown here and there out of place!
The next morning we learned that a neighbor's baby had been rescued, safe in its cradle, which was right-side-up and wedged in the limbs of a tall tree a half-mile or more away from its wrecked home.
That's when I learned what is meant when persons exclaim, "It's a miracle!"
Our next destination was Quincy, Illinois - to visit mother's sister Minnie, aged 20, and recently married to Will Folsom who owned a job-printing business. Our aunt Minnie was beautiful, told us stories, and sang songs with us. Mr. Folsom did not seem to like boys, and he acted nervous when we visited his shop with mother, and he scowled at me when I asked him to please show me how he set type and made rubber stamps. (He did not offer to demonstrate the secret processes of his trade.)
From Quincy we went to Hannibal, Missouri - to visit mother's sister Carrie, aged 24, and married to Eugene Gleason, who worked in a local railroad office. "A fine gentleman," said mother. We had a good visit with uncle Gene and aunt Carrie, and while in Hannibal we heard the Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and Injun Joe stories as told by persons who claimed to have been personally acquainted with the originals of those famous Mark Twain characters.
Our next destination was down the Mississippi River from Hannibal to St. Louis, Missouri. The river was then "at flood" - about 10 miles wide at Hannibal. The man we hired to take us and our baggage in his rowboat to the sternwheel steamboat that was just then dropping anchor far out from the shallows near shore, had trouble getting us loaded on time. The warning whistle kept blowing, and when the captain saw us coming and waving frantically, he waited for us and our baggage to be put aboard.
We enjoyed the scenery, the luxurious furnishings, the delicious food, the interesting conversations with passengers and the novel experience of riding downstream on "The Father of Waters." However, the next morning in St. Louis, a newspaper reported that the very next boat after ours to leave Hannibal for St. Louis was wrecked by a boiler explosion - "with great loss of life."
In St. Louis, we visited a relative named Spring, whose mansion was large, richly furnished and staffed with servants, but there were no children for us to play with. The pleasant servants were asked to entertain us children, and they did a good job while mother visited with Mr. and Mrs. Spring about "old times back East," or something.
When we were on our homebound train and crossing the river on the long steel bridge, the genial conductor patted me on the back and told me what a famous bridge it is, erected under the supervision of a famous engineer named Eads in seven years (1867-1874), "cost a mint of money and built entirely of genuine Swedish razor steel," I remarked: "This bridge is black as tar and my father's genuine Swedish razor-steel razor is bright and shiny." Mother smiled indulgently and the nice conductor patted me on the back and said: "Mr. Eads knows how to protect high-priced metal against the ravages of the elements. The workmen simply covered the precious steel with a protective coating that can be renewed from time to time." I felt somewhat abashed and then and there decided that it's better to ask questions than to jump at conclusions, and I said just that in thanking the conductor for his pleasant reply.
Back home with our dear father, we found that he had changed jobs. He was now working in a book store, a business much more to his liking. We children were glad to mix again with our Owego playmates, and Archie and I looked forward to seeing our schoolmates as soon as the fall term would begin.
I found myself to be a ready speaker, enthusiastic story-teller and 9-year-old lecturer to girls and boys about my own age who had never been "Way Out West," and were ready and eager to listen wide-eyed to my thrilling "Wild West" stories of travel and adventure. Told over and over were my memorized versions of stories that I had read at home before our trip: Mark Twain stories, Custer's Last Stand, Colonel Miles Adventures, Buffalo Bill's Champion Buffalo Hunts and Indian Fights, Indian Savagery, Train Robberies, Stagecoach Holdups, Mining Camp Desperadoes, Terrifying Cyclones, Miraculous Escapes from Disaster - all told realistically - with some whopper exaggerations, no doubt, but very interesting, even to myself, while my active imagination was running riot.
My fourth brother, Frederick Irving, was born on Franklin Street in Owego about a year after we returned from our visits Out West.
Father finally traded the farm property for a valuable residence property in Owego - a substantial six-room house on a quarter-acre lot with room for a small lawn, a large garden for vegetables and berries, two tall apple trees, two pear trees, lilac bushes, pansy beds, a large closed shed for wood and coal, a deep-driven well with pitcher-spout pump - a step from the kitchen door, a hen house with home-made incubator and brooder, and a privy at the end of the backyard path.
It became my job to dress promptly at six o'clock every morning, build the kitchen fire with pine kindling and hardwood stocks, and when they were burning well, add chestnut coal, refill the coal hod, sift the ashes, fill the iron teakettle, the reservoir and the drinking water pail - then set the table for breakfast. Father had to open the store at 7:30 A.M., and, after helping mother do the breakfast dishes, I usually had to run a half-mile to get to school on time at 8:30.
While we lived on the farm, I had been trained for routine chores and punctuality - to keep the wood boxes filled without being reminded, to drive cows from the pasture to be milked at the right time and to help at various odd-jobs for my training in "careful work." But now in town, a little older and stronger, there was no end to necessary chores for me to tackle. I spaded the large garden and fitted the soil for planting a full variety of vegetables, trimmed the lawn with a hand sickle, kept the garden and strawberry bed properly weeded and rye straw mulch under the berry plants, tied full-grown tomato plants to wooden stakes, trimmed dead branches from raspberry, gooseberry and currant bushes, hoed the potato patch, destroyed the potato bugs by burning all that I picked, kept the hen house clean, fed and watered the chickens, gathered the eggs and regularly supervised the activities of my brothers, showing them how much fun and satisfaction can come from doing the home-garden chores as carefully as any lessons to be recited in school.
I demonstrated that theory by being cheerful and engagingly pleasant company for them while I "accepted" the help (like Tom Sawyer) of my energetic and fun-loving brothers.
We boys played ball with other good boys on a grassy lot across the street from our house. We pitched horseshoes, played duck-on-a-rock, went swimming in the canal near our home, we fished in the Owego Creek at the foot of our street, we roasted green corn on the bank of the swimming hole, we went nutting for chestnuts, hickory nuts and butternuts, and in spring we picked tender green wintergreens in the woods back of the cemetery on the hill and often sold small bunches of these to persons who worked in offices and stores for as much as three cents a bunch!
We boys enjoyed our home with father, mother, neighbors and others who came calling. After the supper work was over in the kitchen, we would all gather in the parlor with mother playing our "cottage organ" and we all joining her in singing the good old hymns and other well known songs. On Sunday we all attended the Baptist Church and Sunday School. I have a photograph of 65 of my class in the 8th grade, all posed on the entrance porch and steps with Mr. Jack Ryan, the principal. With the exception of a few, I do not know in what work in life those good-lookers engaged their talents.
Our first sister, Leonora Alice, was born in our 67 West Avenue house in Owego when I was in my 12th year. Our second sister, Irene Elizabeth (named for grandma Spring) was born about two years after Leonora, in the same house. Father called her his "Betsy." Now, then, there were five sons and two daughters in our family - all in the best of health!
While I was in my 15th year, father got a good job in Ithaca, N.Y. - the seat of Cornell University, Sage College for Women, and State of New York Agricultural College.
Father rented our property in Owego to a suitable tenant, and rented a roomy brick house for us on South Hill in Ithaca.
I entered school at Ithaca High, joined the YMCA and the First Baptist Church, and while getting acquainted at school, at the YMCA and the various activities in church, I became an enthusiastic team worker.
I enjoyed home life with father, mother, my four brothers, my two sisters and grandma Spring who had come to live with us after grandpa Spring died and was buried in the family plot in the cemetery in Owego.
Mother frequently called us children together for an inspirational talk about "very important matters." Her topic might be The Golden Rule, Confidence, Enthusiasm, Discipline, Self-Respect, Good-Will to Others, Truthfulness, Inspirational Effect of Love, Business Service to Others as an Effectual Way to Earn Money (father's credo), or any one of Benjamin Franklin's "12 Virtues."
"The very first opportunity that comes, to do what has been carefully planned, is the only best time to do it." Mother never failed to say, after discussing any one or two such topics: "I love each one of you and want to instruct you all in ways to live honorably, usefully and happily."
On my 16th birthday celebration, mother embraced the first opportunity to talk with me privately and she made a priceless suggestion for my future guidance. After voicing pleasure on receiving reports of my victories in the fall contests of our high school track meet, she went on to say: "You now have a foundation of good health and strength, but I feel that I must remind you that the matter of mental and physical health and vigor is a day by day program - you walk or run to a destination one step at a time - just so continual mental and physical stamina must be your own concern, one day at a time, every single day, so long as you may live!" That loving admonition, together with the emotional inflection in her voice, thrilled and inspired me - with lasting effect.
Since I was a very young child, I have had no illness to confine me to a day in bed. Mother's early care, her frequent directions and suggestions that kept me aware of my personal responsibilities, together with that loving admonition on my 16th birthday, confirmed my resolution to maintain superb health and manly vigor day after day, every single day, so long as I may live!
My third sister, Lucile, was born in Ithaca August 21, 1889. Her advent completed our happy family of father, mother, five sons and three daughters.
I finished high school in June 1890, and went to work at once for the grocery firm who sold us our family supplies. We owed this firm a balance of 86 dollars at that time and I had asked for work to enable me to help pay that debt. My seven dollars a week and father's contribution of ten dollars a week enabled us to get out of debt and stay out of debt.
On my 18th birthday - November 15, 1890, we had a family picture taken, a copy of which I treasure and have always kept it hanging in my bedroom, day after day, every single day.
I was married to Miss Eva Van Alstyne, age 20, on my 21st birthday, November 15, 1893, by Robert T. Jones, the pastor of our Baptist Church.
On my 68th birthday, November 15, 1940, I wrote: "Eva and I have lived together comfortably for 47 years and now, at the beginning of my 69th year, it seems to us that the heart warming experiences of satisfaction that continue to add up to happiness, can be maintained only through personal usefulness to others. We desire to radiate health, calm courage, cheerfulness and good-will. We desire to always be natural and unaffected in all our relations with others and to always meet others on a basis of absolute equality. We desire to live without hate, whim, envy, jealousy or fear. We will not meddle, interfere, offer advice that is not asked for, nor assistance that is not needed. We realize that the reward that life holds out for good work is not idleness nor immunity from work, but improved ability, increased capacity for usefulness, greater responsibilities, more good work!
Eva was buried in Spring Hill Cemetery in Easton, Maryland, in May 1947, aged 74.
Her death was caused by complications following an accidental fall in our Seaford, Delaware, home with head injury, two pelvis bones broken and delirious fever following an operation at the Emergency Hospital in Easton, Maryland.
During the ups and downs of my active business life, my work has been in several occupations: groceries, 12 years; hardware, 15 years; construction management during World War I, 1 year; automobiles and farm equipment, 19 years; life insurance, 2 years; hotel work, 8 years - 57 years of interesting work.
Since my retirement at age 75, November 15, 1947, I have been living happily as a paying roomer and boarder in the home of my daughter, Jane, and her two children, Harold and Susan.
"With habitual attention to proper diet, proper exercise, proper relaxation, good health and mental alertness, we can add many eventful years to our useful lives" - so said my exemplary mother - many years ago! And now, I say: "Whoever you are, wherever you are, may you and yours live long and usefully - with vigorous health, sufficient wealth, and equanimity!"
Photo of the author's family, November 15, 1890, his 18th birthday