Tag Archives: Rhema Anderson Fair

Great Grand Aunt Amy Anderson Roof- Match Making

Accidental Match Making

[Oct. 2016–death date corrected to 1919]

Thanks to the videotaped memoirs of Rhema Anderson Fair, I learned a little more about my maternal grandfather’s aunt, Amy Anderson Roof (1843- 1919). Don’t you just love the term “great grand aunt?” I want to share just a small story about how an almost-spinster met her husband-to-be. And how she flew away from a Bird and landed on a Roof.

Amy’s mother was Isabella Sarah McCabe Anderson (1818-1912), the 2nd wife of Joseph J. Anderson.  Amy was Sarah’s fourth child, and there were two older step-siblings and three younger siblings in the family which included my great-grandfather. I have discovered only two pictures of Aunt Amy–unfortunately none from her youth. (Unless she’s one of those unidentified babies in tintypes.)

It is a shame that we don’t have a color portrait, because both Rhema Anderson Fair and my mother, Harriette Anderson Kaser talked about what beautiful long red hair she had. As girls they were in awe of their great aunt’s beauty.

Here is the picture of the Anderson and Stout clans that includes Amy Anderson Roof when she was a 66-year-old widow; and Rhema Anderson Fair who told the story. Isabella McCabe Anderson is the woman seated in the very center in the black dress.

Vera and Guy Anderson and families 1909

Vera and Guy Anderson and families 1909. Aunt Amy is the 2nd seated woman from the left, and Rhema is to her right. This is the house that her husband built on Mile Hill near Killbuck.

By the time Amy was twenty-eight, her siblings– older and younger– except for the two youngest brothers–had long ago married and moved out of the family home, so she was well on her way to becoming a spinster. When she was not working helping her mother, she was reading. A very religious woman, Amy educated herself by reading the Bible and Shakespeare.  Rhema said that Amy had “memorized all of Shakespeare” (at least enough to impress Rhema as a young girl!).

As to meeting possible mates, I can only imagine that her main social activities centered around church and gatherings with family and neighbors. As Rhema said, “In those days, they married close to home.”  

As I look at a map of the farms in Monroe Township in Holmes County from the 1800s, I can’t help but notice that the Bird farm and an Anderson farm share a border. Amy’s sister Caroline (Catherine) Anderson had married a Bird. Later  Rhema’s mother–my grandfather’s first wife, Lillis Bird–married into the Anderson family.

So it is not surprising that Amy Anderson was engaged to a man named Bird, also.  He was studying at the University of Michigan and later would become Superintendent of Schools in Denver, Colorado, according to Rhema. The Anderson family valued education and were probably thrilled that Amy was engaged to marry a young man who was attending a university.

Unmarried daughters often had the assignment of taking care of other people and Amy was taking care of her brother-in law, Rhema says, because “her sister had died.”  Looking at a list of Amy’s siblings, that was most like Charles Quaid, husband of Amy’s step-sister Abigale Anderson Quaid, who had been married in 1841–before Amy was born.

One weekend (I don’t know what year), Mr. Bird, the fiance, came home to visit his family and brought along one of his friends. Unfortunately for Mr. Bird, he introduced his fiancee Amy to this friend, Thomas J. Roof. They fell for each other, and eventually  married.

He was 36 and Amy was 30 before they were married in 1872.

Thomas Roof was always called “Dr. Roof ” by our family members, but I have not yet found any proof that he actually practiced medicine. Perhaps he was in medical school, but as I learned with my  Great Grandfather’s education, that was not as lengthy process as it is nowadays, so I am at a loss to know why, if the couple met while Thomas was in college it took so long before they were married. It is possible that Rhema did not mean they met when the men were in college, but afterwards.

There are many mysteries surrounding Thomas J. Roof besides why he and Amy married so late in life.  Was he really a doctor? Where did all the money come from for constant travel and building an elaborate house in Monroe Township? Where did he come from?

There is another Thomas J. Roof, born the same year who farmed in Standing Stone, PA. That confused me for a while, but it is not the same person, since the Pennsylvania one was still living after “ours” died. As usual with these family stories, facts just lead to more questions.  I’m on the case.

In 1880 Amy and Thomas Roof were living  in Vermillion, Illinois and he was listed in the census as a pharmacist (not a doctor), but by 1900 they had bought a farm outside of Killbuck and built an elaborate house. He was listed in that census as a farmer.

Amy and her husband Thomas Roof were renowned for traveling widely, and it was thought they owned houses in places other than Killbuck, but again, nothing specific in the way of evidence.

The 1910 census shows that Amy’s mother lived with her, but when her mother died two years later,  Amy moved into the Killbuck home of her younger brother Franklin Anderson.  There she helped look after Rhema Anderson in her pre-teen and early teen years.


Lisle Family 1916

Lisle Family 1916. Rhema Anderson (white blouse, 3rd from left) has become a beautiful teen. She is leaning on a visibly aged Aunt Amy’s shoulder (now 73). The woman holding the baby is Amy’s sister Margaret Anderson Lisle.

[Correction: her tombstone in the Welcome Cemetery says she died in 1919]. Although we do not yet have an official record of the year of Amy’s death, she appears in a family photo in 1916, and my mother’s memoirs about the corpse downstairs puts the date of Amy’s death at 1916 or 1917, so her death must have happened soon after that picture was taken. (Margaret Anderson Lisle also died in 1917.)

All the family impressions are that Amy and Dr. Roof had a happy and even exciting life.  But is there more to the story? I’ll let you know what I find.

Rhema Anderson Fair

Stuck on the Farm

I have written about my aunt Rhema Anderson Fair (1901-1996) before, but two events have inspired me to tell you more stories about her. Rhema, who was my mother’s (Harriette Anderson Kaser’s) half sister, has many, many stories, among them, her escape from the farm.

No doubt, Aunt Rhema’s experiences on the farm she and her husband Kenneth Earl Fair (1898-1994) lived on when they were married parallel those of many farm wives.  But you see, she didn’t quite bargain on being a farm wife to start out with.

In my previous story about Rhema, I explained a little of how, when her mother died, she was raised by relatives rather than by her own father, who married my grandmother after his first wife died. It is no wonder that she was a little restless and yearning for a family of her own.

Amy Anderson Roof. Foreground, Rhema Anderson (Fair)

Amy Anderson Roof. Foreground, Rhema Anderson (Fair)

The person who had the most influence on Rhema, her great aunt, Amy Anderson Roof, taught her to value learning and education.  Amy, as I have related before, had traveled widely with her husband Thomas Roof, who left her a widow when Rhema was five. Then Amy joined Rhema’s great Uncle Frank Anderson in taking care of the young girl. Amy was deeply religious and had plans for Rhema.

At sixteen Rhema met and fell in love with her future husband, who was then nearly twenty.

Rhema Anderson Fair

Rhema, in the white dress, and Earl on the far right. Their first meeting, 1917. Clark, Ohio

Rhema Anderson Fair

Rhema Anderson at 17, a student at Bethany College in West Virginia (1918)

The family, of course thought it was a bit young to be getting so serious, and Aunt Amy thought Rhema needed a religious education, so they bundled her off to college. But in less than a year Rhema was back in Killbuck, Ohio and by the time she was 18 1/2 she had married Earl.  The great aunt and great uncle who were responsible for her did not object strenuously to the marriage because Earl came from a prosperous farm family. And the fact that Earl was a teacher impressed the Anderson relatives who respected education.

The young couple moved into a small house on the large Fair farm near Clark, Ohio. Suddenly, Rhema, who was used to living in a large house in town with fine china and a laundress to take care of the wash, was living in a ramshackle two-bedroom house with a door that did not fit into the frame and a screen door that hung loose on the hinges, and an outhouse instead of indoor plumbing.

She was expected to pitch in and got up at 5 or 6 in the morning and milked 6 or 8 of the 16 cows. The barn was at the bottom of a steep hill, and the house at the top.  She carried the pails of milk up the hill and ran them through the hand-cranked separator, and then carried the pails of milk and cream back down to the barn where the dairyman would pick them up. All of this happened twice a day. This went on until her husband built a milk house near the barn.

Other farm chores included feeding the cattle, pigs, and sheep. Her mother-in-law, who lived in the big house, took care of the chickens, and an Uncle of Earl’s looked after the garden.  The farm grew corn and oats and so at harvest time, extra hands would appear for Rhema to cook for.

She also had to carry water up the hill to the house for several years until Earl had a well drilled for the house. In five year’s time, after the birth of Frank (1920) and Richard (1925) she was cooking and doing laundry for a family of four in addition to the farm chores. But there was also always a farm hand that lived with them–another mouth to feed.

Around the time that her first  son, Frank, was born in 1920, oil was discovered in the area and oil-well drillers came to the farm.  In order to raise a little extra money, Rhema took in oil workers as boarders, so she had more responsibility.  Three or four would sleep in one room of the 2-bedroom house.  In nice weather, one might sleep on the porch.

Why, you might be wondering, since this was a supposedly a prosperous farm and oil was found on the property, could they not have more improvements in their way of life?  Well, Earl’s father owned the farm, and the old man was not all that crazy about farming and even less enthusiastic about spending any money on improvements.

Earl kept teaching and went away to take classes each summer. In this picture Harriette–my mother, who had a teaching job in Clark, joins the family.)

Rhema Anderson Fair

Harriette Anderson, Earl, holding Richard, Rhema and Frank in front. (1925, Clark)

Finally, they made a temporary move to an apartment in an old hotel building in the town of Clark, just a mile or so from the farm. Although that was somewhat of an improvement, Rhema again took in boarders.  In later years, as Rhema told her story, she said with prize-winning understatement and her trademark grin, “You’re getting the idea that I didn’t  care for farming.”

Rhema Anderson Fair

Rhema Anderson Fair, in Kent, Ohio, circa 1940

Her boys grew up on the farm and in Clark, and finally, after 18 years, Rhema and Earl moved to Kent, Ohio, so that Earl could finish his schooling and get a better job.  In order to make the escape from the farm, Rhema had to be able to make money, and she got a job as a housemother for a bunch of unruly college boys. How she advanced from being a housemother to a University Director of Housing–and in her words “To BE somebody,” is a story for another day. Suffice it to say that she never had to carry water or milk cows again.

The Stories behind the Story

The first event that inspired more Rhema tales came in the mail. I received a package that is the kind of thing that family historians dream about.  As a result of the first article I wrote, grandchildren of my Aunt Rhema got in touch with me and one day I received four DVDs in the mail.  Three of them are a video of Aunt Rhema talking about her family history and stories. The fourth is pictures of the family. I hardly need to tell you what a treasure trove that is! I thank them for permission to use the pictures you see here.

The video was made in 1989, when Rhema was 88 years old, and yet I felt like it was the Rhema I knew from the 1960’s, with sparkling brown eyes, that slight tilt of the head when she gave a rather ornery smile, and her meticulous dedication to being sure that everything she said was correct. So the story of escaping the farm comes from Rhema herself.

52 ancestors logoThe second event arrived over the computer.  With a little time on my hands over the holidays, I roamed through some genealogy sites on the Internet, and discovered the wonderfully named No Story Too Small, written by Amy Johnson Crow. Amy started a blogger challenge called 52 Ancestors/52 Weeks and an army of genealogy buffs signed up, including Ancestors in Aprons. Each week in 2014, I’ll be sharing a story from one of my ancestors.

Christmas Cookies: Rhema’s raisin bars

Christmas Cookies: Raisin Bars

Put on your aprons, because we’re going to be cooking up some traditional cookie recipes this month.


I found the hand-written recipe headed “Raisin Bars” in my mother’s recipe box, and it looks like her handwriting, so I assumed it was her recipe for Christmas cookies. It had some tell-tale spots on it, so I knew it had actually been used–always a good sign.  But when I looked more closely, I saw that the card was printed with “From the recipe file of Rhema.” So here’s a cookie recipe from Aunt Rhema Anderson Fair.

Christmas Cookies: Raisin Bars

Aunt Rhema Fair’s Raisin Bar Recipe

As I made the Christmas cookies, I could see Aunt Rhema in a frilly pinafore apron, standing in her high heeled shoes in the kitchen, with her hair perfectly in place, as she efficiently mixed and stirred.  And although I had never made them before, I can testify that these spicy Christmas cookies are nothing short of addictive. Bet you can’t eat just one!

Fair Family 1954

Frank, Rhema, Earl and Dick Fair Christmas 1954

My mental picture of Aunt Rhema in the kitchen is very unlike me in my day-old sweatshirt and sweatpants and tennies, and who knows what my hair looked like! Thank goodness, in my case, the cook’s picture doesn’t go along with the baked goods. But I surely wish I had a picture of Aunt Rhema in her apron!

Rhema’s Raisin Bars

Serves 40-50
Cook time 30 minutes
Allergy Milk
Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Freezable, Pre-preparable


  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 stick butter ((1/4 pound))
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg or mace
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk or fruit juice


1. Put raisins and water in pan and bring to a boil. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Add 1 stick [1/4 pound] butter until melted. [Note: I put raisins and water in microwave in a glass cup for one minute on high, then added butter, sliced into pieces and cooked one more minute.]
2. When butter is melted, let mixture cool. and then add 1 tsp [baking] soda.
3. Sift together dry ingredients [ except powedered sugar.]
4. Pour cooled raisin mixture over flour mixture and add 1 tsp. vanilla and stir well.
5. Pour into large flat pan (greased) 12 x 15. smooth out even and bake at 325 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.
6. While cookies bake, mix together 1 cup powdered sugar and 2 tablespooons fruit juice or milk, spread over hot cookies for glaze.


The instructions "smooth out even" was not as easy as it sounds. I was wondering if Aunt Rhema was mistaken about the size of pan and I should have used a 9 x 12. While you could use the smaller size pan for a thicker cookie, these cookies raise enough to make a respectable bar. However, it is challenging to get the dough spread over the pan. I wet the back of a large spoon I was using a few times as I was spreading and that worked well.