C.M.T. Ross

Childhood – Circa 1900

This blog is courtesy of a special guest blogger – my Grandmother Corna Mae Trout Ross. She died many years ago. However, when she was in her 80s, she filled 43 pages in a spiral notebook about what her childhood and young adult life were like in Southern Ohio at the turn of the twentieth century. Today’s blog contains excerpts her journal that I recently re-discovered while sorting through boxes of old family photos and papers. Sometimes we think we’d like to go back to a simpler time. After reading how much hard work was involved in providing the basic necessities of daily life, I’m not so sure I’d want to trade places. Thank you, Grandma Ross for recording your early life.


I was born in Deavertown, Ohio April 12, 1891. Deavertown is a small village in Morgan County and was an underground railway for runaway slaves before and during the Civil War days. The Methodist Church and Masonic Lodge gave them shelter and help on their way to Canada.

My father [Grandville Bartholomew Trout] was studying medicine and working with a Dr. Kennedy at the time of my birth and was to go to Columbus Starling Medical College to finish his training. My mother’s family (Driggs) lived on a nice farm of 150 acres near Deavertown. The house and grounds were one of nicest farms around there. The house was large, with fireplaces in all the rooms, except the kitchen! I was to spend many happy days there with my grandfather and grandmother, Thomas Driggs and Minerva.

Early Memories

Here are my first memories of our home and family. I had a sister, Elwilda, mostly called Wilda. My first memory is of potatoes needing sprouts taken off and Father paying Wilda and me so many pennies for sprouting them. They were brought out of a cave for us to do. We had no cellar, and most folks built caves above the ground and covered them with sod to keep them cool in summer and warm in winter. Mother’s health was not good so we had help around most of the time. Wilda and I went to school one winter at Connellsville.

June 12, 1898 mother passed away. It was her wish that we live with our Grandparents on Father’s side, so sometime that summer we were taken to Grandpa and Grandma Trout in Perry County. They had a small farm, 50 acres, and an old house with beam ceilings. The fire place in the living room was stone front and took large logs. Grandma was 62, but if we were any worry or trouble to her, she never let us know about it. I can remember the loving welcome she gave us, and the first evening Grandfather, Father, Wilda, and I went to bring in the cows. Grandfather told us Kate was a gentle cow and we could pat her.

Communication Challenges

How hard it must have been for Father to leave us there on the farm for there was no way he could hear from us, only by letter. No telephone and mud roads. However, I remember he explained we would go to the country school nearby where he had taught school when he was earning money to go to medical school.

I think the school was the reason we went to our Trout Grandparents as the Driggs were not handy to school. Father closed his home and went to New York City and into medical school again. When he came home, he settled in Philo, Ohio on the Muskingum River in Muskingum County to start over again.

Grandma Trout was a wonderful woman and her grandchildren took turns spending vacations with her and Grandpa. The boys came to help harvest and the girls came along, and soon found that Grandma had plans for all to help. After all, it was the only way she could get all fed and the farm work done. All our food, except a few things such a coffee, tea, and sugar, were raised on the farm. This made work in the summer, in the garden.Then everything extra must be put away for winter.

Hard Work Yields Good Food

Apples, peaches and sometimes pears were dried and tied up in paper bags. No bag was wasted, such as we do today. Corn was also dried and tasted so good in winter. Butchering made a lot of work in the fall, such as making lard, sausage, and salting the meat and then hanging it in the smoke house. We put hickory logs to burn under the meat and smoked it. Fires were mostly wood, but in later years we had some coal. A big wood box in the kitchen was one thing someone must keep filled.

All bread was home baked. Also, yeast was home made. I cannot remember how we made yeast. We saved all meat rinds and grease to make soap. This was done out in the yard in a big kettle. The soap was poured into containers and let set a couple of days, then cut into cakes.

The old folks never seemed to think of the convenient part of things when they built the farm houses. However, they had to build where there was water. At Grandpa Trout’s we went out the kitchen door and to the front yard to get water from the well. We went to the opposite side to the front corner to go to cellar. Sometimes when it snowed and things froze, we had trouble getting to the cellar or garden. Then we had to use things that were close and wait.

Hard Work and Happy Memories

However, don’t think we were not happy. The evenings were long, but a big log fire and popcorn and apples helped. Grandpa would often hitch a horse to a drag of some kind and drag through the snow for a path. The cattle had to be let out to go to spring for water. Eggs must be brought in often or they would freeze. Chicken feed must be cooked up in big pots in the winter. Oil lamps must be cleaned and filled every day. If we ran out of oil, we used candles, which Grandma had made.

What do you know about the lives of your grandparents? The more I learn about mine, the more impressed I am with all they accomplished in an era when they lacked most of the conveniences we don’t even think about as conveniences.

Thank you for stopping by to read about some of the earliest days of labor in our country’s history. If you got this blog from a friend, you can get your own FREE subscription at HowWiseThen. I’m currently giving away tips for recognizing and coping with dementia in memory and honor of my older brother who passed away recently after struggling with dementia issues for several years.

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