11 April 2012

Lottie's Memoirs: The Story Begins

... This is part two in a series. Please see the initial post for explanation.

The Lee Family at Silver Creek, Nebraska

Lottie Me Lee Houston
Mrs. Andrew Houston

Page 1. 

Our father and our mother, Cyrus Homer Lee and Mary Josephine Lawrence, were both born in the month of April, 1850. The Lees lived on a farm near Ransom, Hillsdale County, Michigan, the Lawrences at Camden (now Kipton), Ohio, and although these places are not many miles apart, the two young people never met until they were grown and had gone westward to the new settlement of Columbus, in Nebraska.

They grew up in the days before the Civil War and both Lees and Lawrences were Abolitionists in sympathy, both helped with secret escapes of run away slaves who crossed Ohio and Michigan to the Canadian border. Both our parents remembered vividly the death of Abraham Lincoln and the national period of mourning when the train bearing his remains made its slow progress toward Illinois and the final resting place. Both families were deeply religious and attended church regularly. Both were very eager for the education of their children, girls as well as boys. 

Our parents were children during the Civil War and knew personally many of the Union soldiers. Mother remembered helping at the church in Ohio with rolling bandages from old sheets, and "picking lint" from linen, to make surgical dressings for the Ohio soldiers. Each state sent its own supplies for its boys. This was before the days when sterilization of bandages was known to be necessary, but Mother told of how very clean the ladies and young girls tried to be in preparing these things.

Mother's three brothers, Mortimer, Warner and John, were in the Union Army and experienced tremendous hardships in Southern prisons and camps. The sorrows and the painful experiences which were theirs were reflected in the family for many years afterward. In fact, in the 1920s, both Mother and Aunt Frankie (Frances Lawrence Brown) would be moved to tears whenever they spoke of these things.

Mother and Father also remembered talking with "old soldiers" of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. American history was very vivid to them. The Lawrences had not come to America until about 1830, but among the Lee ancestors at least three served in the Revolution, Captain Ezra Lee, Lt. Stephen Adsit and Nobel Squier. 

During their childhood the great western migration of American people was in progress, and covered wagons moving west were common sights. 

The railroads were developing all over the east and central states, with crisscross lines reaching into almost every town of any size. There was a dream of transcontinental railroads to link the 

Page 2

east and west coasts, and several railroad lines were surveying the west, notably the Union Pacific. 

Our Mother, Mary Josephine Lawrence, had graduated from the town school in Ohio and taught her first rural school at the age of fifteen. Later she attended Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio, for two years. She was deeply influenced by her experiences there and remembered all her life President Finney and a number of outstanding teachers. 

A young woman going to college was a rare thing at that time, and Oberlin was one of the first co-educational colleges in the country, a Congregational institution, of high scholastic and ethical standards. Mother said that while she was admired by some of her townspeople for attempting higher education, she was criticized by many for her boldness! She hoped to continue in college, but money ran short, and her brothers, who had gone out to the new country in Nebraska, after the War, wrote to her that they could get her a school to teach if she would come out. She joined them at Columbus, Nebraska, and lived in the home  of her married brother, our Uncle Warner, while she taught school in Columbus in 1869, 1870, and 1871. 

Meanwhile, Cyrus Homer Lee, our father, was growing up in Michigan. His father, Cyrus Lee, was a doctor who had built up a large practice of medicine around Ransom, Michigan, and who also had a farm and a store where he sold apothecary supplies, as well as some other things. He suffered greatly from asthma, and his son (our father) had to saddle his horse for him when he was called on a case. The asthma became so severe that he gave up medicine for a time, moved his residence and store to a new 100 acres, and devoted his time to farming. Our father often told of how they trained oxen for farm work, of "sugaring off" in the maple groves of Michigan, of gathering great harvests of nuts (hickory, black walnut, butternut) of riding horseback for long distances on business. His mother, Harriet Newton Squier, was the daughter of Noble and Susannah Elliott Squier, and had taught school before her marriage. She had poor health all her life, and was small and thin. She had a sweet and gentle disposition and was greatly loved by family and friends.

... to be continued... 

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