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 Little Home Histories, Part 30 -- My Pioneer Grandmother: Anna Hall Edgerton.

by Walton, Anna.

See previous entry: Little Home Histories, Part 29 - The Home of Sara Doudna.

It seems a long time ago since I heard my grandmother, Anna Hall Edgerton, tell her grandchildren stories about her own childhood and of the pioneer days in Ohio. Her old age was spent in the home of her daughter Sarah, my mother, who had three sons and two daughters. I have heard my father say that he had "lived with her for twenty years and that he had never heard her speak ill of or to anyone" -- surely a remarkable testimony from a son-in-law who knew her in the intimate give and take of daily living, in a family composed of three generations. To the day of her death at eighty-one years, her back was straighter than that of any of her daughters, and she enjoyed company even when her memory had begun to fail so that she could not be sure of the names of the visitors. She received them very graciously, hoping that some indication as to who they were would appear in the course of the conversation. If the desired lead was given, she would slip out of the room and ask some other member of the family in a gentle whisper, "Who is it? Who is it?"

Her memories of earlier days, as is so often the case with older people, were clearer than those of later years -- so that she gave to us children a vivid picture of her experiences from the time when she, as a little girl of seven, moved with her family from North Carolina to Ohio. Her parents, Joseph and Christiana Peele Hall, were comfortably settled on a farm in Edgecombe Co., North Carolina, and Friends there pled with them not to undertake the hazards and discomforts of the long journey. Their conscience, however, were uneasy with the use of slave labor. They wished their children to grow up in a country free from its effects and when the Northwest Territory was opened on such terms as made settlement practicable for small landowners, they resolved to move there. Joseph Hall and one of his older sons went out to Ohio on horseback in the Spring of 1802, purchased a considerable acreage near what is now Harrisville, raised a log cabin and barn and returned to North Carolina for the rest of the family. The wife and mother, Christians, who was a semi-invalid, made the trip of some 600 miles in a two-wheeled cart lying on a feather bed slung hammock-wise from the four posts. They had two other carts of their own and had besides engaged a neighbor to accompany them bringing most of their household goods and supplies. Unfortunately he had been paid in advance so that when, in the last stage of the journey, they encountered a teamster homeward bound the neighbor unloaded their possessions in the woods six miles from the new home and left them to shift for themselves. This was the more difficult as they were among the first settlers in that part of Ohio and were obliged to cut down trees and make a road for part of the way. One of their possessions we still have in use, a sturdy walnut chest that must have been heavily loaded for the journey. In due time they arrived safely and wintered in the log shelters previously erected for themselves and their stock. The two buildings had been located near two convenient springs of fresh water. The choice of the home spring was a fortunate one, though entirely accidental. One morning when the weather was beginning to feel warmer, Anna, my grandmother, was walking around the barnyard among some loose cornstalks. Feeling something move under her foot she looked down and saw a rattlesnake torpid from the winter cold. When the men investigated they found a cave in the rocks above the barn spring which contained 60 rattlers. Had the home been built where the barn was located it seems likely that some of the family would have been bitten before the danger would have been discovered. As it was, seven-year-old Anna never forgot the day when she stepped on a live rattler and escaped unharmed.

In the year 1810 when she still lacked two months of being fifteen years old she was married to my grandfather, James Edgerton, whose brother Richard her sister Mary had married. She had been her father's housekeeper since she was eleven years old when her delicate mother had passed away. James was at this time twenty-four, a minister in the Society of Friends, and a man of such settled character and reputation that Joseph Hall was entirely satisfied with the engagement, especially as he himself was in poor health and felt concerned to see that this youngest of his daughters should be suitably provided for. His approval as well as his affection is evidenced by his making the trip to Wheeling with her to purchase the wedding dress. After she had selected a simple white cotton material which he purchased, he himself chose a peach bloom silk of which he bought enough to make both dress and bonnet to match. Anna, although so young, had already reached her mature height. She was straight and tall with auburn hair and must have been a striking figure in her beautiful dress, with short sleeves and long gloves up to the elbows, and bridal slippers on her feet. The Meeting House at Short Creek was made of logs and was heated by a charcoal brazier which rested on a central stone. As the wedding was on the 10th of the Fourth Month artificial heat was still required and grandmother used to tell with quiet humor about the sermon that was preached over her on her wedding day. At that time a Welsh Friend, Mary Wichel, was travelling through Ohio on a religious visit. From the various incidents related of her she seems to have been something of a character. Unused to the monotony of pioneer food she grew weary of a steady diet of poultry. At one home where she was staying she looked out of the window and saw them trying to catch a chicken for dinner. She raised the window quickly and called "Let the chicken go and catch a pig." Hearing of the intended marriage of so young a girl she expressed her disapproval and, being present at the ceremony, preached about "the proud and naughty daughter of Zion." When she was questioned afterward as to what she meant she replied, "it was because of the way the bride switched her silk dress around the charcoal braziers" In telling us the story grandmother used to add that Mary Wichel herself had been married in her ninetieth year and that it always seemed to grandmother "just as bad to marry in one's second childhood as in one's first." After the wedding feast Anna Hall Edgerton rode pillion behind her husband to her new home in Somerton, passing by forest paths through what is now Barnesville.

Most of her new neighbors were squatters without much education. She was often lonely as her husband was frequently away at night. He was a surveyor and went to the river to see to arrangements for settlers taking up new land. In her isolation, however, Anna Edgerton did not forget the amenities of life. Quaker women in those days wore caps over their hair both at home and under their bonnets when they went abroad. Grandmother used to tell how she got hold of a cap pattern cut rounded under the ears instead of square cornered and tied under the chin. She made herself several caps in this new Eastern fashion and was wearing one when her father came on a visit. Joseph Hall might buy a peach bloom silk but he was shocked at this new style in caps and said to Anna, "I never thought that a daughter of mine would have worn such a thing."

At one time, Grandfather Edgerton was bitten by a copperhead snake. As she ran for help to some of the neighbors, his wife must have remembered the time years before when she had stepped on a poisonous snake and got away unharmed. Acting on the advice of older and more experienced women she put the warm flesh of a newly killed chicken on the wound. Her husband recovered but ever afterward conscious of discomfort at the same time of year as that when he had been bitten.

Eight children were born to Grandfather and Grandmother, five daughters and three sons. Grandfather had built a two-story brick house with a central hall but had not yet nailed down the floor of the living room when he was seized with a mortal illness. A terrible epidemic passed over that part of Ohio with fatal consequences in many homes. It was a medical conviction of the time that fever patients must not have any liquids and those nursing the sick kept them in an agony of thirst till they died or got better. Sometimes there were not enough nurses to maintain this careful watch. One boy, during this epidemic managed, it is said, to crawl away unobserved to the maple grove where he drained a bucket of sugar water, He was one of the very few who recovered. Grandfather and his two oldest sons died as also did an adopted boy, Vernon, whom they had taken to raise. Grandmother was thus left with five daughters and one son, David, a boy of ten. The young widow had the farm to manage and six children to feed and educate. Fortunately she had early known responsibility and she met the heavy burden bravely. Twelve years after her first husband's death she remarried and had one more daughter who died early. Of the Edgerton children, my mother, Sarah, was the last of the daughters to leave the parental home. She married Samuel Walton, my father, and went to Philadelphia to set up housekeeping. After two years in Pennsylvania they returned to Ohio. Grandmother came to live with them and so it was that the lives of Sarah's children were enriched by mother's memories of Pioneer days.

Source: Written by: Anna Walton, Moyland, Pa.

See next entry: Little Home Histories, Part 31 -- Edgerton History.

For the table of contents and first entry in this series, please see: Little Home Histories, Part 01 -- Table of Contents and Introduction

This entry is adapted from Little Home Histories in Our Early Homes, Belmont County, Ohio, which was published in 1942. Its publication was coordinated by Robert D. and Beulah Patten McDonald. This entry has been reedited for inclusion in the Pierian Press Fulltext eBooks database, and is included on the Stratton House Inn Website by special permission. This entry is licensed for use ONLY on this Website. It may be used for educational purposes and personal pleasure under fair-use provisions via this Website. Please note that the Stratton House Inn iteration of this entry does NOT include the subject headings assigned each chapter for use in the Fulltext eBooks database.

DATABASE: Fulltext eBooks: Copyright (c) 2002 The Pierian Press, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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