The Door to Ohio
© 2009
By Norma Boyce Richardson
Part one of two parts

Mariah      In 1917 James Robert Boyce purchased two properties in Leesburg Township, Union County, Ohio. James and his second wife Lizzie (Elizabeth Jane Kincaid) moved from Ritchie County, West Virginia to the property just outside of Pharisburg, Ohio. Clifford and Gladys Boyce, the only children of James and Lizzie, and Lloyd the youngest son of James and Mariah Ann Davis Boyce, made the move with them. James and Mariah Davis Boyce were my grandparents.

     Not far from the Boyce family property lived the Albert and Mary Eddy family, my maternal grandparents. Originally from Monroe, Ohio, Grandpa Eddy brought his family to Ohio on November 16,1905 from Alva, West Virginia (source: Union County History book.)

     Their youngest daughter Minerva Lenora would one day become my mother. She was 5 years old, soon to be six in the approaching February when the family relocated two miles west of Magnetic Spring, Ohio. The Eddy’s were pillars of the community as well as being quite prosperous, involved in West Virginia oil and owning much land in Union County, Ohio.

     My father Lloyd and mother Minerva Lenora must have met in Ohio, although the Boyce and Eddy families must have been friends in West Virginia. Dad’s pet name for mother was Bridget. Lenora      My oldest sister Helen was born in Magnetic Spring, Ohio on March 2, 1921. While she was still an infant, mother and dad moved to Pennsboro, Ritchie County, West Virginia. I don't know why they moved back, and it could have been to help on the farm. Six more children were born in West Virginia; Doris Jean, Robert Donald, Carlla Marie, Anna Mae, my twin sister Orma, and myself. My youngest sister was born in Ohio when I was 8-9 years old.

     My older siblings have special memories of life in the hills of West Virginia. They were sent into the hills to hunt for Sassafras roots to make tea in the spring. We made games of all chores and there were always plenty of chores like picking huckleberries at the top of the huge hill behind the log cabin. I only know this as my sibling told me and it was a constant vigilance to watch for the copperheads and rattlesnakes that slithered round and about.

     My older siblings had to walk to the little store in Pennsboro to buy groceries, which was a regular chore that produced no complaints from them. Beans were a staple and always on the list. It was impossible to carry the brown poke of beans home without spilling a bean here and there. The very narrow dirt path we called a road was edged with sprouting bean vines, the fruit of the spills. My older siblings remember the making of molasses at Bert Jones, an annual event. A group of horses attached to the device that ground the sugar into juice walked round and around, and at last the sugar cane had been converted to juice, and then it was put into a big kettle over an open fire to begin the long process of boiling the juice until it became molasses. Many brought their musical instruments. Once the boiling of the molasses was well under way the instruments came to life, and could be heard floating over the hills and under the full moon voices lifted in song as feet were set to dancing.

     Siblings remember walking the dirt roads as one of their favorite pastimes. There were many hollers around our home and a walk was never complete without exploring. I remember a day when they were so intent in playing in the holler that they were unexpectedly swathed by the evening dusk. They were a far piece from home and hurrying out of the holler towards home when Robert saw a pair of eyes. He ran so fast he beat the dog home and told Mom he had seen a ghost. Neither of them explored in that holler again, no matter the eyes belonged to a cow.

     Robert and my sister played Tarzan, although I am uncertain how they knew about him. On perfect days of their youth, they would look for and find the largest wild grapevine the West Virginia hill provided and swing out over the deep ravines. They were lucky, but who feared at that age, and echo sounded so good. My sister remembers walking home from Fannie Jones house with our old bulldog, Mike. Mike was so protective of the many little Boyce children who held church membership and his special place was under the pew during the service. The little old church is still standing on Gnats Run. Doors are open yet, but deteriorated inside. I visited it about 3 years ago. Fannie Jones was a faithful member and did not live far, and everyone in West Virginia must remember Fannie Jones.

     In March, 1937 my grandmother Mary Ann Lyons passed away and mother was not able to get back to visit her before she passed away. After her death dad and mother moved back to Ohio, living in grandmother's house to farm, and that was the beginning of our farm living. I was just about 5 years of age, and therefore, I do not remember any of my grandparents.

Martha_Eddy_Billinger      Father and my Uncle Oliver Eddy, mother’s brother, were partners in farming after we came to Ohio to Grandmother Eddy’s place, but my father wanted his own farm and dissolved the partnership, so the farm became Uncle Oliver Eddy’s. The following March, 1938 the family moved to a house owned by Uncle Roy and Aunt Martha Eddy Ballinger. The new house was located on Route State 47 between York Center and West Mansfield. Dad would eventually buy the house and farm and become a self employed farmer. My twin Orma and I would enter the first grade at York Center. I remember the first day of school we had to wear long cotton socks, and had white snow boots with fur at the top of the boots. The boots were not so bad, but the long cotton socks that we kept up with rubber bands were our worst nightmare as no other children were wearing them.

     After we got on the bus, and our parents could not see, we would roll them down and have a roll at the top of the snow boot, and if you think it was pretty, guess again. Orma being the second born twin and being very shy, it seemed I had to do all the talking even through I was very shy myself. She cringed behind me while I did all the answering of questions that were asked on the first day of school.

     My only brother Robert, out of 8 Children, was called up to the United States Army around 1942, leaving us girls to be the farmers. I remember getting up before dark to go out and feed the cows, and carry buckets of warm foamy milk from the barn up to the house where we had milk cans to strain it into, and then we could put the milk can in the water trough. We had a windmill that pumped water into it to keep the milk cool till the big milk trucks would come to pick up the milk we sold. We had to strain the milk to remove all the particles of dirt that were impossible not to get in the milk while milking by hand. Carrying milk was a two time a day chore. We had a milk separator that separated the cream from the milk, so we could churn our own butter. Oh how we hated the cleaning of that machine! Today I am not a milk drinker as that odor keeps coming back to me.

     There was hay to be made, cows to milk, and chickens and pigs to care for. We had a machine that we would feed whole ears of corn (corn sheller) in to shell them, which was a daily job. We of course made a game of all the chores. Later years we had a silo to store shredded corn. We had to climb high up into the silo to pitch down a lot of silage to feed the cows. We would put it in the cow’s feeder and then put a can of ground feed on top and act like we had given them a dessert with a nice whip cream on top. While the cows were being milked and while we stood waiting to carry the milk up to the house, we brushed and braided the cow’s tail, as it kept us busy and warmer and time went much faster.

     Another chore that I recall was the cleaning and sanding of eggs. Mother sold her eggs, and they had to have special care. We had large crates to pack them in, but they had to be washed and sanded for sale. I never failed to break a few in my hands, and still today eggs are not a favorite food of mine.

     Summers on the farm were something unforgettable. We had acres of cucumbers, and when pickling time came it was so hot, mother would make us hats out of newspaper that looked like a sailor’s hat. I am not sure I would remember how to fold the newspaper to make one today. In our small village we had a place that bought our pickles and they were sorted for size, and we sold them there. We had a huge field with turnips, and I think of how we had fried potatoes with fried turnips for many meals. Our gardens seemed big enough for everyone as my father looked out for others. For those that have eaten wilted lettuce, you can imagine the huge tub of lettuce we would have to pick in order to feed a family of ten, because of the way it shrinks down in size. I still remember how mother saved all bacon grease in a jar for making old fashion white biscuit gravy, and also using it for the wilted lettuce.

     I remember the summer we had about 5 bushels of peaches sitting in the kitchen to can. It had to be a hundred degrees that day in August, or when ever peaches were ready to harvest, but it always seemed to be the hottest time of year. All of us girls were working our job just like an assembly line, one washing jars, one scalding the jars, one dipping the peaches in boiling water to make them peel easier, and one packing them in the jars and putting in the canner to process. Not a minute for a break. We were all hot and perspiring and getting pretty testy with each other, but we had to contain ourselves as if father heard us fussing and yelling he would be in there even if he was way out in the barn. I think he had antennas on his ears. The razor strap hung right by the kitchen door, and it was used when needed.

     Oh how we hated to get up in the winter as our house was not insulated, and snow sifted right through onto our beds upstairs. It was cold. We had one potbelly stove downstairs, and it was usually always out by morning. Dad would call us early every morning to get up for chores awaiting us. The ritual was not a cheery good morning; time to get up, but a yell up the stairs to get our working clothes on, so we ran down the stairs to find a spot next to the wood stove, always hoping Mother had it fired up again.

     At night we would carry a bucket of well water into the kitchen. On cold winter nights it was not unusual to find it frozen over with a thin layer of ice. One dipper for all, and we all drank from that. Unheard of today, but we were never sick.

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