A Century Ago - Reflections on 1900
Story One - by Joyce M. Tice - As the twentieth century comes to an end, it is interesting to reflect on its beginning. Such reflection gives rise to the question of who of my ancestors were alive in that year of 1900, where were they and what were they doing? In summary, all four of my grandparents were in their childhood, seven of my eight great grandparents were raising families and two of my 16 great great grandparents were alive, the remainder of them having died mostly in the 1890s, and therefore they just missed being in this little report. I will arrange this report into the four families that this represents.
Lee Dewitt TICE was eight years
old, and he was a student in one of the one roomed schoolhouses of Sullivan
Township, Tioga County, Pennsylvania. The 1903/1904 School Souvenir Book
of the Robbins Hill School includes Lee and some siblings. His report card
of 1904/1905 is from the Holly School, but his school in 1900 is not known
at this time. At the time the family were in the Robbins Hill School District,
they lived up the road and across from the Ames Hill Cemetery in a house
that is long gone and no remnant of it remains. The 1900 census would place
them probably in the Ames Hill location based on their neighbors. (Ames
Hill intersects Robbins Hill - which is now inappropriately named as an
extension of Scouten Hill) Lee's parents were Harvey
L. TICE and Cora May SMITH.
They were age 42 and 31 respectively. Lee's oldest sister, Bertha, was
thirteen years old and she was mentally retarded. Older brother Harry was
eleven years old. Younger brother, Phil, was four years old, and in February
of 1900 brother Earl Dean Tice was born. Over on Sanitarium Hill in the
Holly School District of Sullivan Township, Matthew
Richard (Deke) SMITH and Polly COMFORT,
parents of Cora, were living on the location of the pioneer homestead of
Deke's parents Rufus Smith and Eunice Northrup Wilson. Deke and Polly were
aged 60 and 58 respectively. They were the parents of eight children, six
of whom reached adulthood. These two families were farmers. Deke and Polly
owned their farm, but Harvey and Cora were renters at that time and farmed
leased land and probably helped on the farm of Deke and Polly as well.
Five year old Jennie Miller was last in line at this 1900 Ridgebury School Photo
The home of Emma MOSHER Miller in Ridgebury Township
Out in Cattaraugus County, New York, nine year old Blanche Clark was attending school in Cold Spring or Salamanca Township. She had started school at age four and was so little that the teacher let her sit on her lap. But at nine, she was firmly in control of her own desk. Blanche was in the middle of a large family. As the fifth child of Orin CLARK and Anna BENSON, she had four older siblings and three younger ones. Orin and Anna were both 42 years old - the same age as Harvey, Menzo, Ruth, and Emma. Ray was eighteen years old, Ruth was sixteen, Jay was fourteen, Goldie was eleven, Kate was seven, Albert was five, and baby Helen had just been born in May of 1899. The Clark family were farmers and Orin also did carpentry work.
To the best of my knowledge, not a single one of these people ever got any education past the eighth grade, maybe less. Lee became a farmer like his parents and grandparents. A correspondence course in young adulthood taught him bookkeeping. Mildred died at age thirty of a brain tumor. John worked for the Telephone Company and became a member of the Telephone Pioneers of America. Blanche, Lee, and John all lived to a normal elderly age.
These families all had in common that they lived in rural areas as did most people of their time. All four families included a Helen (Cora had a sister Helen). The name Helen must have been the Jennifer or Jessica of the late nineteenth century. Three of the four families lived in the same location and knew each other. Lee and Mildred, in fact, were third cousins on one of their Connecticut Yankee lines, their mothers, Ruth and Cora, being second cousins. Their lives were very different from ours and they worked a whole lot harder than we do and had less to show for it. They transported themselves by foot or by horse wagon.
The next interesting part of this story is what will life be like at the end of the twenty first century, and unfortunately, none of us will know about that.
Joyce M. Tice - November 1998
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