March Early 1870s

The Austin barn in the early 1900s.
The Austin barn in the early 1900s.

In the early 1870s William Henry Austin worked in New York City. Henry wrote his son Lon directions about work he wanted done at the Austin home and farm on Proctor Road in Halfway Brook.

Tom Collins was their long time neighbor who lived on Collins Road. Daughters Edith (Emma) Austin may have been in college; and Ida (Aida) was around 12 years old.

New York, March, early 1870s
Dear Son Lonny,
I thought I would write a few lines to you.

I wish you would tell Tommy Collins not to get out that frame for the woodhouse, nor draw the wood. If he has not commenced either, tell him that I don’t want it done. I wish you to tell him as soon as you receive this so he won’t make any calculation on doing it.

I wish you would let it be known that the cattle will be for sale about the first of April. I shall try and come up there about that time so if you see anyone that wants cows, you can tell them, but do not sell any until I come.

I haven’t heard from Edith since she left here. Tell Ida I miss her very much.

It is quite warm here today, but the streets are in a fearful condition, but I have not much to do, so it doesn’t make much difference to me. I wish you would write and let me know how the hay holds out.

With much love to you all, I close, Wm. H. Austin

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March 27, 1881

Early Winter 1881 February 1881

1860–1870: Cattle fording the Smoky Hill River at Ellsworth, Kansas, on the old Sante Fe crossing, 508 miles west of St. Louis, Missouri; 54 miles west of Solomon, KS. Photo: Alexander Gardner. Library of Congress: LC-USZ62-8087.

Mary Ann Eldred Austin wrote her son Lon Austin in 1881, with local news.

Lon lived in Solomon City, Kansas, where he worked for his brother Ell who managed the many acres of farm land owned by Henry Parmenter. In 1883 Ell married Henry’s daughter Emma. When Henry died, Emma and her sister inherited 220 acres on the Smoky Hill River.

Mary Ann Austin, Eldred, to Lon Austin, Solomon City, Kans.
March 27, 1881

My dear Son,
Your long looked for letter has arrived. It is very welcome, for indeed I thought you had forgot your Mother and I was afraid you was sick, as Eldred [Ell] did not say anything about you.

How I do wish you was working to Proctors and boarding home. Gus Osier has moved on his father-in-law’s place so that he will be nearer Proctor. But George Parker lives near his father, so he has a good way to walk.

They say that this man that has bought near Proctors is worth the most so that it will make plenty work.

George Hickok came home last week dressed like a gentleman and set some crazy to leave this place. Bill R. and H. Sprague expect to leave for Catheray in a few weeks. Olin Hickok went last Monday.

Wells’s wife came out with George. George says he gets $100 a month driving a gypsy wagon, is doing well; and Wells makes money. But he has bad luck losing horses I think. Continue reading

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1917, before WWI

Mt. Hermon School where McKinley attended for a year.

McKinley Attends Mount Hermon
In the fall of 1916 Mort and Jennie Austin said good bye to their oldest son McKinley, as he left to attend Mount Hermon School for Boys in Massachusetts.


Mount Hermon
Mount Hermon was founded in 1881, by evangelist D.L. Moody (1837–1899), To help young men of very limited means to get an education such as would have done me good when I was their age.

The Mount Hermon campus was surrounded by 1,100 acres on the wooded banks of the Connecticut River in western Massachusetts.

The Bible was the primary tool for instruction in the early days, and it was accompanied by a rigorous academic program similar to that of other private secondary schools of the era.

Manual labor, called “Cooperative Housekeeping,” was required of all students. Boys performed janitorial, laundry, kitchen, and farm work.

After Moody’s death in 1899, his eldest son, William, continued his father’s work at the Northfield Schools: Mount Hermon and Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies. Henry Cutler was headmaster at Mount Hermon from 1890–1932.—School archivist Peter Weis,

McKinley Austin, Mount Hermon, Mass., to Aida Austin, Eldred
April 6, 1916
Dear Aunt,
I am getting along all right and I like the place very well. All the fellows I have met so far are nice. There is one from India that I have met. He’s all right too. Give my regards to all and tell them I’ll write soon. Your nephew, McKinley

Changes Ahead in 1917
On January 31, 1917, Germany announced their U-boats would engage in unrestricted submarine warfare. German submarines sank three American merchant vessels on March 17.

Though President Woodrow Wilson had earlier declared the U.S. neutral, in April the U.S. entered the war, The Great War—The War to End All Wars.

Once again men in the villages of Highland township would be fighting in a war, but this time they would fight overseas.

Men from the town, descendants of early settlers, future residents, and relatives of future citizens of Highland, play a part in another horrid War.—from, Echo Hill and Mountain Grove, pp. 315,316, 318.

Note: The United States entered WWI on April 6, 1917. My uncle McKinley, his brother (also my uncle) Raymond, and my Grandpa Briggs (Methodist Minister in Highland, 1935–1945), were all in WWI. Since it will soon be the 100th anniversary of the US entrance into WWI, I hope to add the letters and info I have collected in Echo Hill and Mountain Grove off and on through out the year.—Louise Elizabeth Smith.

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“Albion’s Seed” Book Review

Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America, by David Hackett Fischer.
Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America, by David Hackett Fischer.

East Anglia to Massachusetts:
The Exodus of the English Puritans, 1629–41

The South of England to Virginia:
Distressed Cavaliers & Indentured Servants, 1642–1775

North Midlands to the Delaware:
The Friends’ Migration 1675–1725

Borderlands to the Backcountry:
The Flight from North Britain, 1717–1775

When my youngest son heard the book I am writing reaches back to 1630s London, England, he mentioned, Albion’s Seed.

Albion is the oldest known name for Great Britain. Mr. Fischer discusses four groups of English settlers from four different regions in Great Britain; four different time periods; and the “folkways” each group brought—threads of which continue in the fabric of today’s society.

Some folkways covered: speech, building, family, marriage, naming, death, religious, food, dress, sports, freedom.—pages 8 & 9.

Mr. Fischer corrects and explains some misconceptions on dress.

• Steeple hats and ‘sadd colors’ (p. 140) were typical of Puritan dressways. Both men and women in New England did actually wear the broad-brimmed steeple hats of legend, historical revisionists nothwithstanding.—p. 142.
• Even in the twentieth century, the descendants of the Puritans still wear suits of slate-grey and Philly-mort. In Boston…Brahmin ladies still dress in sad colors…—p. 145.)

Lawful entertainment included two amusements: The Boston game is known today as American football. The New England game/the Massachusetts game/town ball/round ball is of course our baseball. Both games descended from “a large family of English folk games.”—from pp. 148–151.

My father often added an “r” to words such as Hawaii became Hawaiur. I found the answer to this on pp. 59–60 regarding New Englander speechways:

Other common pronunciations were… ‘Americur’ for ‘America’… Some ‘r’s’ disappeared (Harvard became Haa-v’d)…other r’s were added. ‘Follow’ was pronounced ‘foller,’ and ‘asked’ became ‘arst’…Precisely the same sounds still exist today in remote parts of East Anglia.

Because my focus is on the earlier English Puritan migration, I have the sections on the Cavaliers, Quakers, and North Britain left to read.

Packed with helpful drawings, maps, and tables (including “Genealogical Links to New England’s Puritan Elite”), I found this a great resource.

Fischer, David Hackett, Albion’s Seed, Four British Folkways in America, NY: Oxford University Press, 1989

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