Pioneer Potluck: About Kansas Grandparents

1867 to 1948


I am able to write about my ancestors or my family legacy through the wonderful handwritten book my mom compiled and wrote in the late 1970s. Her tiny, tiny handwriting and her research makes me wonder how she amassed this large amount of information for this book with out the aid of a computer and all the information you can get from all the programs available to us. She must have spent huge amounts of time researching through the library in Fort Collins, Colo. I am in awe of the large amount of information she found about my dad's side of the family and her side of the family. She also included pictures of our ancestors as well. I am so grateful and pleased that she took the time gather the information I use today. She wrote at the bottom of some pages Mrs. John Melvin McClure/Loretta E. Cogswell, 1977-78. My sister, Ginger has compiled much more history (legacy) through years of research also. She was a big help with this following story.

My grandfather, David Thomas McClure, was born in Pennsylvania in 1867.

My grandmother, Mary Francis -- known as Hattie -- was born in Indiana in1880 and came to Kansas when she was 3 in 1883. My grandfather came to Kansas in 1883. They both died in Kansas, Grandma Hattie in 1945 and Grandpa David in 1948 and are buried in a small cemetery not to far from where they lived all their married life. They were married in 1902. They had seven children. The youngest, my Aunt Alma, is still alive and living in Sterling. She is 94.

What I find interesting about all these dates, is I knew, loved and talked to them and they were born in a different century! Just think what they saw in their lifetime, from horses, to cars to airplanes and all the conveniences we have in our homes. Of the seven children, three sons were in the service in WWII and came home to live long lives. Grandma and Grandpa McClure had three big red, white and blue stars in their window throughout the war to show their sons' patriotic duty.

My dad, John, was exempt from the service, as were many farmers. They viewed the farmers as very valuable to the war cause. The sugar beets that he planted, the corn and the cattle he raised were part of the war effort. We picked cattails every fall as a school project. The cattails were used as insulation for flight jackets. My uncle Lester was in the Army Air Force. I used to think I picked the cattail cotton so he would be warm while flying his airplane. While stationed in India, he did not know his mom, my Grandma Hattie, had died in 1945. He was told by the Red Cross after he came back to the United States and spent many months in a Denver hospital because of malaria.

Grandma Hattie was a hard-working non-complaining gentle person. Farmers clearly understood the need for a hard-working wife (with numerous children) to handle many of the chores including childrearing, cooking and baking three meals a day and sewing clothing for their family. They also managed all the housework. During the early years of the 19th century farm women played a very important role in making sure their families survived by working outdoors in the fields, raising a garden, feeding chickens, gathering eggs, washing clothes on wash board and hanging them out to dry. The clothes were then pressed by an iron they called the sad iron that was placed on the hot cook stove, and exchanged once in a while for another hot sad iron. Oh My! It makes me tired just think about it. New conveniences entered the picture, and sewing machines and washing machines made the domestic roles of the wife less demanding.

The farm life picture, painted of the prairie settlers, overemphasized isolation of a lonely farmer and his wife, but in reality rural farm folk created a rich social life for themselves. There were activities that combined work, food and entertainment, such as barn raising, corn husking and quilting bees, school functions and church activities. Going to church on Sunday was a highlight of the week. My second cousin, Jim Nelson, commented, "I well remember Aunt Hattie bringing her flock of children to the Presbyterian Church every Sunday. She drove a Model T Ford touring car with the top down. She taught a Sunday school class. She had a very hard life but you never heard her complain." 

Part of her hard life was she was in demand throughout the community when someone was ill or having a baby. The other part of her hard life was Grandpa David never went to the fields, he sent his boys to do the work. No one ever remembers him working. Since he had four boys he just let them do the work. He did let them go to high school 6 miles to Beverly, Kansas, traveling in the 1926 Model T. The boys all played football. My dad was especially proud of his accomplishments playing football.

In the Great Depression they were all poor; they just did not know it. They lived on chickens, eggs, pork and milk but no beef -- the cows were too valuable. They tended the gardens, when the grasshoppers didn't eat up the plants, spent the evening at each other's farm, the children playing in the yard until dark, then coming in and listening to the old folks tell the same old story time after time. My dad was very good at telling stories over and over, with just as much enthusiasm and laughter as the first time he told it.

Grandma Hattie's mother, Laura Twibell, or as we referred to her, "Great-Grandma Twibell," was a legend all her own in our family. Her ancestors were from Monaghan County, Ireland, near the city of Cork. My dad would tell us we were Irish -- and my mom would add "And don't you forget it!" Great-Grandma Twibell lived to be 102 years, 8 months and 5 days. Her life is so interesting and colorful I will have to write a separate story all about her travels to Kansas and living a dugout sod house. She never had a serous ailment.

I think it is important to write your current family history down, including dates if possible, even if it's hand-written on a piece of paper.  Then put it in a safe place. I would have never known about my relatives, if it were not for my mom taking the time to write all the information down. I would not have a story to write at all. Thank you Ginger, living in Colorado, Jim Nelson, my second cousin living in Kansas at the age of 89, and Aunt Alma, my dad's baby sister, who at 95 is living by herself in Sterling, with her son at her side, a granddaughter and four great-grandchildren.

Bread and Marmalade Pudding
Here is a recipe from 1927 that calls for the things you have in your kitchen.

I renamed it Bread, Butter and Jam Pudding
6 slices of bread
Orange marmalade or other types of jams and jellies. I used rhubarb-strawberry jam.
3 cups milk
2 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

(Because milk was not pasteurized, and right from the cow, usually, this 1927 recipe called for the milk to be scalded.)  I do not do that.  
Butter the bread and spread each piece with marmalade, jam or jelly.  Cut bread in finger lengths and place in a buttered baking dish.  Beat eggs and sugar until well blended.  Add salt and milk. Pour over bread and set the baking dish in a pan of hot water.  (I do not do this)  Bake in a slow oven at 325 degrees for almost an hour until center is firm. Serve warm, cold, with or without cream.

Rice Pudding - 1920
The word syrup was spelled "sirup" in place of the usual sugar in this recipe.

5 tablespoons of raw long grain rice.
4 cups milk
1/2 cup cane "sirup" (I used 1/2 cup white sugar.)
1/2 teaspoon each salt, cinnamon, and raisins
Wash rice, mixed with milk "sirup" or sugar, salt, cinnamon and raisins. Butter a pudding dish and pour mixture into dish. Bake slowly at 250 degrees for three hours, stirring often to prevent sticking during the first hour. Serve hot or cold.
My mom made rice pudding on top of the stove, stirring and stirring and then putting it in the oven for an hour with the top sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. It was so good. We ate it with cream and sugar poured over the top.

Chocolate Cake Crumb Pudding - 1920
If you have leftover cake and you want to take advantage of every morsel, this recipe is a delicious bit of nostalgia.

1 cup mixed cake and bread crumbs
2 cups of milk
1 1/2 squares unsweetened chocolate melted and cooled OR 1 cup cocoa
3/4 cup sugar
3 egg yolks well beaten - save whites
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 egg whites
1/2 cup powdered sugar

In a sauce pan on the stove, heat 1 1/2 cups milk, stir in cake and bread crumbs, the melted chocolate or cocoa, and 3/4 cups sugar. Stir until the mixture makes a smooth paste. In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks, 1/2 cup milk, butter and salt until thickened. Gradually stir the egg mixture into the hot chocolate mixture stirring constantly over low heat until thickened. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Pour into a buttered putting dish.  Bake at 325degrees for 25 min. while you make the meringue for the top of the pudding. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add powdered sugar to egg whites and beat until stiff. Spread the meringue over the pudding sealing the edges. Bake at 425 degrees for 5 min. until meringue is lightly browned.
Chill several hours before serving.


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