Category Archives: family

Doctor’s Daughter and the Medicine Show, a Family Letter

Imagine This

Imagine that you are a 13-year-old girl living in a town of about 800 people in rural Ohio, Holmes County. It is February, 1895, so the dirt streets usually turn to mud in winter, but this winter has been mild, and a medicine show has come to town. You sit down to write a letter to your Grandma, Emeline Stout, who lives in Guernsey County.

The Letter

Vera and Emeline

(The photo of Emeline Stout below is undated, but since I have younger and older pictures, I believe this is roughly the right time period. I previously mis-identified it as being Hattie Stout because I misread a caption that said “Grandma Stout”.  Since it was my Grandmother Vera’s handwriting, it is Emeline, not my mother’s Grandma Stout–Hattie.  The photo of Vera is approximately the time she wrote the letter, but unfortunately I do not have one that is better quality.)

The Background

Your father is a doctor and, as usual, is out in the country helping a patient.  Not a lot happens in this small town except church on Sundays and other church meetings. A medicine show with a painless dentist has replaced the interest stirred by the Methodist Church revival, which has now ended. The revivals are almost as well attended as a traveling circus, and draw nearly everybody in town.  Some of those people, not already committed to your father’s chosen place of worship, the Church of Christ,will respond to the emotional sermon of the traveling minister and walk down the tent’s aisle to join the Methodist Church. After you report on the Methodist’s success, t occurs to you a that you had better also tell Grandma about the activities of the Church of Christ. (You are writing the letter on Monday, so your church yesterday occupies your mind ).

When you announced your intention to go to the medicine show, your mother, upholding the reputation of the good doctor, lets you know in no uncertain terms that you cannot go.  One can only guess how appalled she is to think that neighbors would see Doc Stout’s youngest daughter at this charlatan’s traveling show. Additionally, although you Vera might not have known, alcoholism ranks as the biggest social problem of the time. The traveling medicine man’s main income comes from selling “medicine” that is almost totally alcohol or morphine.  It would not occur to you that Grandma Stout might disapprove as much as your mother did  of the medicine show.  Emeline Cochran Stout took an active role in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).

You let it slip later in the letter that you already went to the medicine show, because you were tempted to let the painless dentist pull your teeth.  But since you report honestly on both the good and the bad, you admit that you chickened out of having the teeth extracted.

Perhaps your mother did not realize you had attended before, and when she learns about your plans to go again, you see your mother’s refusal as being contrary, and you pitch a fit.  You get so angry that you even refuse to write a thank you letter to your Grandmother Stout even though your obedient older sister, Maude, has written her letter.

But when you calm down, you write the letter to Grandma and in plain terms, confess to your contrariness.

Transcription and Notes

The 13-year-old was my Grandmother Vera Stout (Anderson). She wrote the letter on her father’s stationary and filled in the date February 25 1895. In three months she would celebrate her 14th birthday. The portion in italics is what Grandmother wrote. I have left her spelling, but for clarity I added periods at the end of sentences. My notes are in brackets. I will include additional notes at the end of the letter explaining things that might not be clear.    

Printed letterhead, with fancy frame around name (see picture above):

W. C. Stout, M.D.

Office days, TUESDAYS and SATURDAYS (from 9 A.M. to 3 P.M.)

Killbuck, Ohio, Feb. 25 189 5

Dear Grandma,

I will answer your letter this evening. I was to contrary to ans when Maud {Vera’s sister} did because I was mad. I received your mittens you sent me and thank you ever so much. think they are very nice.

There is a show in town & has been here for wk and is going to stay all this week. ma got a contrary spell & would not let me go & I have been crying about it for a long time. Pa is up to Stagers. Mr. Stager was down after him to go to see his wife. she has the grip. {grippe–flu}

The Methodist church broke up last night I do not know how many members they got. I think about 30 I am not sure. Are school will be out in about 2 months & Mr. Searles is going to teach a Normal school {school for teachers} this summer. I will not attend.(1) We had church last night & two came out and three were taken in.(2) Bertie Knavel and Mrs. Williams joined and the Fox girl was taken into the church. We got Uncle Tom’s little boy’s picture & he is awful sweet. they named him after Pa. William Clarence Stout. & it make it W. C. Stout like Pa name. He is awful sweet. I expect you have one of them. he is standing by the hobby horse.(3)

Well grandma I got two teeth filled the other day . Mr. Mackey from Millersburg {County Seat, and biggest town in the county}. I only have two more to have filled & 4 to have pulled & will have good teeth. will be glad of it. The show that is here is a medicine show and the Doctor pulls teeth without pain & I am to big a coward to get my pulled. I started to and set back down. backed out.

This was a lovely day. the sun shone all day & the roads are nice.(4)

When are you coming out{?}

This is all I have to say this time so good bye. From your grand daughter Vera

Tell the girls I will write to them to. {Vera’s cousins, who were close to her in age– the nieces of her father, Doc Stout. Mary (b. 1883) and Myrl ( b. 1885), daughters of “Lib” Elizabeth Stout Cunningham.}

 

(1) If May seems early for school to be out, remember that in an agricultural society, parents needed their children on the farm during planting season.

I don’t know why Vera felt it necessary to say she would not be going to the Normal School conducted by Mr. Searles, since Normal schools were for high school graduates, not pre-high school.

(2) “two came out and three were taken in”  In Evangelical churches like the Church of Christ people “come out” and confess their  belief generally at the end of a service.  After some time passes, the minister baptizes them and they are “taken in” to membership in the church.  “Taken in” could also mean people who moved from another congregation.

(3) Uncle Tom is Tom Stout who ranched near Sheridan Wyoming.  The little boy named after Doc Stout, born in 1891, grew up, married and had a child, but was killed in an automobile accident in 1919.  Unfortunately, I have not found a copy of the picture of the child with his hobby horse.

(4) “the sun shone all day and the roads are nice”  This is the most evocative line of this letter, taking us back to a town when the condition of the roads could not be counted on to be passable, particularly in winter.

What Did I Learn About Grandma’s Life?

Now if your imagination is still in tact, and you are transported back to small town Ohio in 1895, imagine what happened after Vera wrote this letter.

My first reaction focused on how wonderful it was to have such a revealing letter from my grandmother.  I can see the plain-spoken, no-nonsense woman I knew in her later years. It brought back to me that  small town life really did include things like medicine shows and painless dentists, and the westerns that I saw in the movie theater where Grandma worked in later years were not just making things up. Did you ever see Bob Hope as a painless dentist in The Paleface?  (Remember, also, that in 1891, Ohio was still considered the West.)  Excellent description of the American phenomenon of traveling medicine show in this article.

But my second reaction was to ask, “If this letter went to Emeline Stout, why was it among my great-grandmother’s papers?”  Was Vera’s Ma, Hattie Stout still being ‘contrary?; Was Vera drop the letter in the slot at the post office, or did her mother make her recopy it and leave out some offensive lines? Perhaps I am over thinking this, because when people wrote letters by hand  in an era that prized beautiful writing, it they frequently recopied a letter and mailed the “clean” copy.

Now that you know Vera as a 13-year-old, and her mother Hattie, what do you think happened? And what do you think of my grandmother?

 

Heirlooms: Wedding Jewelry

Way back in January 2016, I showed you some pictures of my mother’s “Jazz Age” jewelry, including this bracelet–possibly wedding jewelry. (Click on that link to get a description of the bracelet.)

Wedding Day Bracelet

The bracelet Harriette Anderson wore the day of her wedding to Paul Kaser.

When I wrote that article, I said that I wasn’t absolutely sure that the bracelet was a part of mother’s wedding day outfit–, but I thought that she wore this unusual wedding jewelry.

Now I know!  This newspaper wedding article features a picture of my mother, Harriette Anderson Kaser, with her Matron of Honor, Lois Duncan Feight .  The wedding took place in the home of Lois and her husband Hank in Newark, Ohio.   (This article explains why no relatives attended.)

Wedding picture in newspaper

Newspaper Article :Lois Duncan Feight and Harriette Anderson Kaser at HAK’s wedding to Paul Kaser

And just in case you cannot see the bracelet, here is a grainy enlargement.

Close up to show Wedding bracelet

Close up to show bracelet worn for wedding. Harriette Anderson Kaser wedding with Lois Duncan Feight.

I have shared some of the letters my mother and father exchanged during the years leading up to their marriage.  In one, Mother mentions going shopping for a new dress, presumably for the wedding. It does not mention wedding jewelry, though.

In March, 1938, she wrote:

I went to Coshocton tonight and bought a new dress, hat, gloves, purse and tomorrow am going to get shoes.

I couldn’t stand a chance of your looking nicer than I might. No Dear I just had the urge and saw one I liked pretty well so there was.

It is true that despite his lack of funds, Paul Kaser was a spiffy dresser, but judging by the picture above, she was keeping up with him just fine, don’t you think?

Others Blogging About Heirlooms

Jeanne Bryan Insalaco, Everyone Has a Story to Tell,  started a Family Heirloom challenge in November 2015 asking fellow bloggers to join her in telling the stories of their family heirlooms. Here are some of the bloggers who also blog about heirlooms.

Cathy Meder-Dempsey at Opening Doors in Brick Walls
Karen Biesfeld at Vorfahrensucher
Kendra Schmidt at trekthrutime
Linda Stufflebean at Empty Branches on the Family Tree
Schalene Jennings Dagutis at Tangled Roots and Trees
True Lewis at Notes to Myself  
Heather Lisa Dubnick at  Little Oak Blog
Kathy Rice at Every Leaf Has a Story
Mary Harrell-Sesniak at  Genealogy Bank Heirlooms Blog

Are you a blogger who writes about heirlooms (even once in a while)?  Let me know in the comment section and I’ll add your blog to this list.

This Old House: Where Ancestors Lived

Among the treasures that showed up in our recent move, was this picture of my great-great grandmother’s old house.  I decided to put this picture together with other old house pictures, most of which I have already shown to you.

Great-Great Grandmother Mary Morgan’s Old House

Mary Morgan's old house

Mary Morgan’s Killbuck house with Doc Stout office on right. Circa 1880

 

Mary Bassett Morgan (1810-1890),  (wife of the infamous Jesse Morgan) lived in this Killbuck, Ohio house.  When Hattie married Dr. William Stout in 1872, the newlyweds moved into an apartment in Mary’s house and Dr. Stout set up his office in the lower front part of the house, facing Main Street.

I have not researched land records–if they exist for those early days of the community–so I don’t know if Mary first lived in that old house with her first husband, Asahel Platt.  Since Mr. Platt apparently owned a general store, this would have been a perfect location. And those big windows on the left side, look like a store front to me. Mary did not live in one place consistently.  After Mr. Platt died, she lived in another county, where she met and married Jessie Morgan. Later census records indicate she joined her daughter in a household that probably provided a room for the school teacher, Hattie Morgan.

In 1870, Mary’s census address includes a variety of people, making it look as though she runs a rooming house. That could be the big house above. Next to her on the census list, we see a physician, so possibly that doctor left and Doc Stout took over his office.

The little town of Killbuck (then called Oxford) has two main streets–Main and Front.  This building stands on a corner of the intersection of Main and Front Streets, facing Front Street where most of the businesses developed.  Hattie and “Doc’s” three children, William (1873), Maude (1875) and Vera (1881), my grandmother, were all born in that house at the corner of Main and Front.

When I was in high school, a restaurant called Hale’s occupied that corner–and possibly the same building, much remodeled.  But the restaurant building burned down in the 19  s and the rebuilt building on the corner bears no resemblance to Grandma Morgan’s old house.

Great Grandfather Doc and Great Grandmother Hattie Stout’s New House on Main Street

By the time my grandmother, Vera Stout (Anderson) was about four or five years  old( circa 1885) , Doc Stout build a grand new house for his family, around the corner on Main Street.

I can see echoes of Hattie’s mother’s house in the new house and office Doc Stout built on Main Street.  She obviously wanted to have the same kind of porch she had in her mother’s house.

Stout Family old house in Killbuck, Ohio

Dr. William Stout and family in front of family home, circa 1885

Grandma and Grandpa Anderson’s Farm House

When my grandmother married, she and her husband Guy Anderson lived for a time on this house on a farm near Killbuck.  The first picture below–a gathering of their extended family in 1909–gives a hint of the grandeur of this house, which had been built by Guy’s uncle.  The next picture shows how the house looked a few years ago.

Anderson family photograph

Vera and Guy Anderson and families 1909

Old House on former Anderson Farm

Old Anderson Farm, Photo courtesy of Herb Anderson

Grandma and Grandpa Anderson’s House in Town

However, farm life did not agree with Vera and Guy, and they moved in to town.  I wish I had a better picture of the little house they lived in on a side street in Killbuck. In this one, Grandma is sitting on the porch with the three children–Bill (1905), Harriette(1906), and Herbert (1908).

Anderson old House in Town

Vera Anderson and children at small house in Killbuck, about 1910

Not long after the picture of this old house, the house burned to the ground.  Mother tells how her father, who had a hardware store at the time, came running calling for her because he was so afraid that she had been caught inside in the fire.  It was a traumatic experience that none of them would ever forget.  Mother said that for years, Grandma Vera would look for things and then realize they were destroyed in the fire.

Great Grandmother Hattie Stout’s Small House

Doc Stout died in 1910, and Hattie Stout decided to move to a smaller house.  She lived in this little place when my mother went off to college.  This picture shows Mother’s brothers, Herbert and Bill Anderson, and her friend Sarah, who later married Bill Anderson. A cousin from Guernsey County gazes off to the right.  Hattie Stout sits In the center and her daughter Vera Stout Anderson, in an apron, pets her dog Peggy. The picture dates to about 1925. (The family had moved to Columbus, Ohio when Harriette started college at Ohio State University, but returned to Killbuck when Guy and their sons could not find work.)

Dog Peggy

My grandmother Vera pets Peggy. In the center of the picture is my great-grandmother Hattie Stout, Vera’s mother. About 1925 when my mother was in college.

The End of Doc Stout’s Grand Old House on Main Street

Guy and Vera by this time had moved into the family homestead–the house that Doc Stout had built when Vera was very young.  Vera continued to live there until she was in her 80s. Through the years part of it served as the doctor’s office, it became a boarding house, then a restaurant, and later Vera offered rooms or apartments for rent. When she sold it, she moved to a small house on Water Street near Front Street in Killbuck, and the grand old house on Main Street was dismantled to pave a parking lot for the grocery store.

Stout-Anderson house newspaper article

Stout-Anderson house newspaper article

So of the five old houses shown here, only one survives that I know of. It is possible that the small house of Hattie Stout might still exist in a different form in Killbuck.  But meanwhile, I am glad to have a collection of pictures of houses of my grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great-grandmother.