STORIES AND REMINISCENCES
I Remember Grandma!
My grandmother was born Elizabeth Patchett in 1840 in Spaulding, England Lincoln Shire. I do not know when she came to America--but she married Grandpa, Luther Dunsmoor, on May 28, 1855. They homesteaded on Green Lake Prairie about four miles east of the village of Markesan.
Grandpa was born October 15, 1834, at Worchester Co., Massachusetts. His father was killed in a sawmill accident and his mother loaded the family into a covered wagon and started for the West. The story is that she had given Grandpa away, since she didn't feel she could manage such a large family, but when she stopped to water the horses at a stream, Grandpa came trudging on after them. So they picked him up and brought him along.
My father told stories of Indians--how someone would come and warn Grandma the Indians were coming, and she would make all the children hide. She wasn't afraid but Indians had been known to steal children.
They must have prospered, as they built a new house. By now they had a family of five boys and three girls. Grandma had a partition built through the upstairs with a stairway going to each side, one for the boys and one for the girls. Since it was the best house on the Prairie, the young school teacher came there to board. I think Grandma had designs on her immediately, and as Grandma usually managed to have her way, the teacher married my Uncle Waite, the youngest son, and became my Aunt Grace. Aunt Grace just died out there in that same house at the age of 96. She told me a young man friend brought her to Grandma's house with her trunk on his rubber-tired buggy, and after welcoming her, Grandma told the young man he needn't come back again. On Sunday nights she would take the lamp into the parlor and then tell Waite to go in and sit with Grace. He was supposed to be courting her.
So after they [Waite and Grace] were married, Grandma and Grandpa came to Markesan to live. Grandma never pulled any punches--you always knew where you stood with her--which I think is why she was known to everyone in Markesan as "Aunt Betsy." I used to wish she wasn't my grandmother so I could call her Aunt Betsy.
I remember the time my mother sent me down there for something, and Grandma made me stand in front of her rocking chair while she ripped the hem out of my dress. I had to walk home about five blocks with the hem hanging down--my dress was too short! My mother wasn't angry--you just expected Grandma to do things like that.
Grandma had a wig. I knew because my father would take me with him when he took her with the horse and buggy to a woman out at Mackford who would make her a new wig out of a shoe box full of combings she had saved.
My brother hadn't known about the wig--and one night when my father had sent him down there to sleep because Grandpa wasn't well, Grandma came out without her wig and he laughed so hard he fell off the couch!
Father also sent him down there to paint her front porch, and afterward he said if he had given him another quart he could have painted the house! But though Buster wasn't much of a painter, he later made us all very proud of him. He became Executive Assistant to the Governor of Panama, a position he held until he retired and moved to California.
My father used to walk down to Grandma's every night after supper to take her a quart of milk, and I often went with him. We had to cross on a board walk across a pasture where someone kept a Jersey cow. My father pumped the cow a pail of water and she drank it up so fast--and after that always came up to the walk when he came along. So Dad found the owner and bought the cow; he couldn't stand to see anything mistreated. He rented a pasture for her about a block from our house and the boys would have to drive her up every night and morning to be milked. Her milk later tested highest of any brought into the creamery.
Sometimes Grandma would call up and say "Tell Will I need 2 milks today."
Grandma had a dog, a Dachshund whom she called Roderick--an English name for a German dog. When Grandma sat in her wicker rocker he would sit on her lap with his head hanging off one side and his feet and tail off the other.
Grandpa was a very tall man with a long white beard; he seldom said very much--being content to let Grandma run things. But he could get riled up when he found out when a neighbor lady put salt around the roots of his trees, trying to kill them. Grandpa had been poking around with his cane and discovered the salt, and I remember him shaking his cane at her and shouting.
While Grandpa was tall, Grandma was very short. She didn't mind how her dresses were ironed, but her aprons, which were long and full and tied around the waist, had to be ironed just so!
When they still lived on the farm, Grandpa would make cider--they had a big apple orchard. Grandma would go to town and get him 50# of raisins and 50# of sugar, and then she would go away while Grandpa and his sister Jane made the cider. Later when he went to Grandma's for New Year's dinner, Grandpa would send the boys down to bring up a jug of cider. It was pretty potent and the boys always waited for that moment--but I don't remember Grandpa ever drinking any.
Grandma always kept her "English" way of speaking. She would say "fit" for fought and one time was trying to find "hotel" in the telephone book under O. Grandpa called me "Mildrich"--was that Scotch?
Grandma loved to play cards. After she was gone, we were going through her shoe box full of diaries. Every night it would say "Lucy and Betsy came. Played cards and we beat." I don't know who "we" was, but Grandma apparently always won.
My father had an almost horror of cats, which he passed on to us. I was a grown woman before I could pick up a kitten. But when Uncle Waite was a baby in the cradle and my father a younf child, my grandmother came into the room and found their cat on the cradle sucking the baby's breath. Grandma threw her big apron over the cat and pulled him off and then revived the baby. It made a lasting impression on my father.
When it stormed Grandma always got up to watch that lightning didn't strike any of the buildings. The rest of the family, including Grandpa, slept through the storms, except Uncle John who fgot up and kept Grandma company. Ironically when he was 18 he was struck by lightning and killed while taking the team into the barn.
My grandfather spelled his name "Dunsmoor" but his brother in Markesan spelled it "Densmoor." Being Scotch, neither gave in so now we have Dunsmoors and Densmoors but they are all the same family.
I couldn't write this without saying something about my sweet mother. She was born Margaret (Maggie) McCracken in Nebraska where her parents stopped after a trip to the Yosemite Valley. Grandpa [McCracken] owned a hotel in Markesan which they called "The Yosemite House." Incidentally, his father had settled in Mackford (named after him) where he ran the mill. When the train came through, the stop was in Markesan so most of Mackford moved down there. Maggie was an only child of George (Tuck) and Ellen White McCracken. When she and father were married, he [father] helped Grandpa with the hotel, and when Grandpa became ill, took over. People used to tell me "too bad I didn't look like my mother; she was the prettiest girl in Markesan." And she was just as much of a lady. Grandma [Dunsmoor] used to say if she had to live with any of her children, she wanted to live with Maggie.
My brother had been named Fred Mack, but when he was old enough to be around the hotel, the men all called him "Hotel Fritzy" so my mother called him "Mack" from then on.
Then one day Grandma [Dunsmoor] was standing in back of Grandpa's high back rocker brushing his hair and his head fell to the side. Grandma said "hold up your head, Lute," but Grandpa had slipped away as quietly as he had lived.
Grandma stayed on in her home with Sadie, the housekeeper who had been with them so many years, until she joined Grandpa.
And now I am a grandmother with ten grandchildren and six great grandchildren. I hope they will think of me with the affection I feel when "I remember Grandma!"
|Last updated 3/8/1999||This site represents an ongoing project to document the history of Green Lake County. If you have information to share, please contact Bob Schuster by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 6020 Kristi Circle, Monona, Wisconsin 53716, (608) 221-1421.|