Charlie GillGrandma O'Brien's farm journal diaries ar now in the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan.

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‘Cardinal Charlie’: Grandma O’Brien fed, sheltered peddlers

Published 1:30pm Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Here some more snippets of Grandma O’Brien’s old farm journal.

Addie and I picked raspberries in the woods. I got a case of poison ivy.

Boiled down cider, churned butter, made a kettle of soap. Done slathers of work today.

Flaxed around like fleas in a mitten. Did more work than three common women could do.

Nobody to jaw with today.

Brought home a spanking good dinner bell.

I cleaned the cellar and did several other stunts.

Bought some carpet at $1.25 a yard.

Pat hurt his thumb on a piece of fence wire. He kicked up his heels and came near fainting.

Sale at Frank Layman’s today.

Pat was terrible mad because I didn’t want him to go. He went to work and was just mad enough to work good.

Pat husked corn awhile, but when he saw folks going to a political meeting in Dowagiac, he couldn’t work, so he went, too.

Pat cut his finger with the corn cutter so he wouldn’t have to milk the cows. Not much to do but sit by the stove and read the papers.

Put rings in the pigs’ noses today. Pa went out to collect money to pay the minister of the Union Church. Pa went to the woods and measured the wood he cut, then went out on the lake to gossip with the fishermen.

Pa cleaned and oiled the harness and oiled the windmill. Pa went to the neighbor’s on business (this means he took a cow over for breeding purposes).

Florence and I went to the woods for ferns and mushrooms.

Pat and I went to the cemetery and cleaned the lots. Pat and I stayed up all night and gave “Tops” medicine every hour, but the poor horse died at dawn.

Pa plowed corn and got a sore finger. Complains a great deal and said there never was such a sore finger. He performed a surgical operation on it by pricking it with a needle. I think it will get well without amputation.

Went to the woods to hunt pigeons (passenger pigeons became extinct in 1912, but were very numerous at one time).

Lots of travelers have stopped by a lot this summer, some selling Bibles, tinware, table cloths, medicine, windmills, brooms, suspenders and fish. Many were given food and shelter. One lad came from Norway.

Pat took “Nero” to be shod and there were 75 people ahead of him. Pat chased all over the countryside looking for his cows that got out of the pasture (he sometimes spent days in this sort of chore). Fixed a doofudgeon on the cow’s head. Pat came to the door in the evening and rapped on it.

Made me think someone was coming and got me to say in my prettiest voice, “Come in.”
He thought he done something smart.

Got ready to go to town, but met Murphys on the road (quite often they would meet someone on the road who was coming to see them and they turned back home with the company).

The girls went to Murphy’s in the evening to a “grand snap and catch ‘em,” a real jollification.

I went to Benton Harbor to have my chewers exterminated, as I can’t eat fast enough. Pa went along to hold my feet.

Addie had 12 teeth pulled today at 50 cents a tooth and $3 for the gas.

Our clock and watch both stopped and we had to to go the neighbors to get the time.

Lydia Ricketts drowned herself in the cistern.

A dynamite explosion in Wisconsin felt like an earthquake here in Michigan (Baraboo area, munitions plant, March 9, 1911).

Went to Berrien Springs to hear Billy Sunday.

Wilson Smith drowned himself in their watering tank.

Women of Michigan cast their first votes today, April 17, 1919.

On Dec. 17, 1919, the world was supposed to come to an en, but it didn’t. I wonder if someone will read my journals that I have written for many years.

“Cardinal Charlie” Gill writes a nostalgic weekly column about growing up in the Grand Old City. E-mail him at

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