14 April 2012

Lottie's Memoirs: The Young Family

... This is part three 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 4.

At Christmas time, 1870, Cyrus Homer Lee, then twenty years old, and his sister Lucy, eighteen, drove a horse and buggy from Silver Creek to Columbus to attend the big Christmas program given by the combined efforts of school and Sunday school, in Columbus. A pretty young school teacher, Miss Mary J. Lawrence, had charge of the younger children's performance, and her appearance and manner completely captivated Cyrus Homer. He said jokingly, in later years that he "froze his nose several times driving to Columbus and back that winter, but he won his girl."  They became engaged and he worked very hard to build a frame houe ont he land which he homesteaded, half a mile from Silver Creek. It was originally a small, two story frame house, painted white. He set out trees all around the edges of the place, mostly cottonwoods, and set out a small maple grove in the northwest corner, near the house. They were married at Columbus, August 13, 1872, and set up housekeeping in their new home. Later they were to build on to the house several times, adding Ls and a porch, in what mother laughingly called a "hen and chickens architectural style." The maple grove grew as we children grew and made a wonderful place in which to play.

To them were born eight children, of whom I was the first.
They were:
  1. Charlotte May Lee (Lottie), B. Aug. 5, 1873, Silver Creek, Nebr.
  2. Lawrence Homer Lee, B. Dec. 12, 1874, D. July 25, 1897, Silver Creek, Nebr.
  3. Bertha Hope Lee, B. Oct. 4, 1877, Silver Creek, Nebr. D. Oct.   195  , New York City.
  4. Florence Faith Lee, B. Sept. 21, 1879, Silver Creek, Nebr.
  5. Mortimer Bennett Lee, B. Apr. 28, 1881. D. July 12, 1881, of "congestion of the brain".
  6. Lucy Anna Lee, B. Sept. 26, 1882. D. Jan. 18, 1913 at Rockledge, Florida, of heart disease.
  7. Elmer Eugene Lee, B. Sept. 29, 1884, Silver Creek, Nebr.
  8. Roy Ernest Lee, B. Nov. 8, 1886, Brighton, Colo. D. Feb. 18, 1902, Bellevue, Nebr, as a result of a skating accident.

My brother Lawrence and I were only 16 months apart in age, and we grew up to gether almost like twins, going everywhere together, sharing in everything. We were very close to one another, and whenever he learned to do some new thing, I wanted to learn it too. For example, when he learned to milk cows, in Colorado, I got him to teach me. We learned to ride horseback, to ride bicycles, to hitch up horses to the buggy, and many other things. Also we read together, walked to school together, studied together. He went to Doane Academy first, and I followed later. 

Bertha and Florence were the next "pair of twins", and they also did a great many things together, sharing many interest and experiences, both in childhood and later life.

Page 5.

Then baby Mortimer, "Little Morty", died in infancy of "congestion of the brain." I suppose it was what is now called encephalitis. I had the disease also and was very ill and nearly died in the summer of 1881. It must have been a dreadfully hard summer for our young parents, with five young children, serious illness and death in the family.

Lucile (Lucy Anna) was born in 1882, when I was nine years old, and Mother allowed me to take a great deal of responsibility for her care. I was very proud of this. As soon as she was out of the cradle, when Elmer was born, in 1884, Lucile slept with me in my room, and from then on we were "pals". As we four girls grew up we divided the housework between us, and usually Bertha and Florence worked as one pair, Lucille and I as another.

When Roy was a baby, in Colorado, the nurse midwife who cared for mother had to got to another case on the third day, while mother was still in bed. Women were supposed to stay in bed for ten days following a birth, at that period. Mother allowed me to wash and dress the new baby under her direction as I was then thirteen years old. She had me warm the little clothes, hands and blankets and bring them to her bedside, with the necessary warm water, warm mutton tallow, soft cloths and towels. She always put aside worn table linen to be used for soft linen to wash new babies. It was carefully washed, bleached and ironed, ready for illness.

Mother knew a great deal about illness and home nursing. She had a big "doctor book" which she studied thoroughly, and she read everything she could find on child care and care of the sick. She had known of Florence Nightingale's work in teh 1850s, of the discoveries of Pasteur and Lister in the '60s and '70s. She accepted the new "germ theory of disease" and tried to apply the principles of antisepsin and sterilization. During our period of growing up she had eight children, all born at home, and helped with countless other new babies in and around Silver Creek. She took care of all of us with measles, chickenpox, mumps and whooping cough. She cared for Mortimer and me with congestion of the brain, for Lucile and me several times with rheumatic fever, and for Florence with scarlet fever. We were spared the two dread diseases of diptheria and typhoid fever. The scarlet fever occurred while we lived in Colorado, and Florence was very ill at home. Mother kept her isolated in a room which opened on a hallway, and put on a special dress and a cotton scarf tied over her hair when she went to Florence. When she came out to the family she scrubbed her hands and changed her clothes. It is much to her credit that no one else caught the fever. Mother slept in the room with Florence, washed her dishes and utensils separately, took care of the linen, all according to the doctor's orders, in what we would now call "strict isolation technique."

She was known as a skilled home nurse wherever she lived, and was consulted by all the neighbors. She often sent broth or other delicacies to shut-ins or those who were seriously ill. She "sat up nights" many, many times with patients whose families were worn out with their care. There were no hospitals, and people kept

Page 6.

their sick at home. When Mother was gone at such times, we girls took over the work at home. It was not unusual for us to do an extra washing for someone who was ill, or to have an extra child staying with us. Of course all these things were done as acts of neighborly kindness, never for pay.

One of the children who stayed with us was Tinley Combs, whose father and mother both died, leaving two children. Some relative took the younger boy, Bert, and our family kept Tinley for several years. He was somewhat older than I, and after he grew old enough to work in the store he helped Dad there. We always thought a great deal of the two boys and kept up with the friendship for many years. Tinley became a prosperous jeweler in Omaha, and we used to see both the Combs families often.

Mother was very strict about keeping the sabbath as a day of rest, except in cases of sickness or death. She once said that the only time she ever sewed on Sunday was once when a young woman died who had not clothes to be buried in, and she and a friend made a shroud on Sunday.

 ...to be continued...

Silver Creek, Neb. Date Unknown.

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