Chapter 1 Section A
This is the farmhouse where both my father and I were born. On the left
is the buggy garage. On the right is our Avery tractor to which the saw
used for cutting logs for firewood was attached with a wide belt. My family
members in the picture, from left to right are I: my Mother, Bonnie; my
Father, Fred Sr.; my Sister, Helen; my Brother, Fred Jr. (Junior.)
In 1873 my great-grandfather, William Harvey McMurry, made a trip from Tennessee to Kansas, looking for a new home. He purchased a section of land in Lincoln Township of Reno County. Before leaving, he made arrangements for a house to be built and went back to prepare his family for the move.
Incidentally, his move to Kansas came one hundred years after his grandfather, John McMurray, Sr., had migrated from Ireland in 1773. He settled in Charleston, South Carolina. His son Robert, my great-great-grandfather, moved to Tennessee, and thus the story of my McMurry ancestors, complied by Rhuy McMurry in 1966, is called "The Tennessee Colony." Rhuy's genealogy is also part of this chapter.
My great-grandmother, Martha Jane Fairies, and my great-grandfather were married December 4, 1845. All their seven children were born in Tennessee. The children were: James, Harriet, Jane, Susan, Hugh, my grandfather William Eli, and Charles. James and Harriet were already married when the family moved to Kansas. However, they also came, settling in the same area. Susan, who married the year the family moved to Kansas, was the only one who stayed in Tennessee. She and Hugh both died before I was born and James died when I was only five. Consequently, Great Aunt Harriet, Great Aunt Jane, my Grandfather William Eli, and Great Uncle Charlie are the only McMurry's of that generation that I remember.
My grandfather was 11 years old when the family moved to Kansas in the fall of the year.
My great-grandfather became a successful Kansas farmer. His special pride was his high grade of hogs.
He died in 1903 and my great-grandmother died in 1907. My grandfather
and, in turn, my father, continued to farm the McMurry homestead.
Great-Aunt Jane McMurry Moore
According to the McMurry genealogy, my Great-Aunt Jane married Uncle Jim Moore in 1874. The Moore family was also a part of the Tennessee group that moved to Kansas in the early 1870's. Aunt Jane and Uncle Jim settled on a farm near Yoder where they lived for thirty years. They must have been fairly prosperous because they did some traveling for several years in Oregon and Texas before buying a house in Hutchinson. That house on Fourth and Plum Streets is where I remember visiting them.
Dad made regular visits to Uncle Jim and Aunt Jane's home when he'd go into Hutchinson, and sometimes I was privileged to tag along.
In my memory, they were always sitting in their rocking chairs. If the weather were good, they would be on their front porch, rocking away.
They always seemed very happy to see us, and I remember them as two very elderly, pleasant people. Uncle Jim had poor eyesight and worse hearing. The only way he could hear was by picking up his "horn" and inserting the end of it into his ear. That horn was about fifteen inches long with a bell on the end about six inches in diameter. Even with his "hearing aid," Uncle Jim still had trouble hearing Dad, let alone me.
He would always notice me and ask how I was. If it was during the school term, he wanted to know how I was getting along in school. Talking into that tin horn was interesting.
"Eh?," he'd say. "Talk louder so I can hear you."
His conversations with Dad were always full of questions, such as, "How are the wheat or corn crops this year?" or "How are your cows coming along?"
Dad always did his best to give him the latest farm news.
We would never be there long before Aunt Jane would offer us bread and jam or cookies. I can almost taste her plum jam as I write about her.
We moved to Western Kansas in the summer of 1932, and after that move, I don't recall any visits with Aunt Jane and Uncle Jim. However, my genealogy book describes the celebration of their sixtieth wedding anniversary, Christmas, 1934.
I am grateful for the memories I have of two pleasant people who always
seemed interested in me, and welcomed me when I visited them with my folks.
Both Aunt Jane and Uncle Jim were in their nineties when they died.
Great-Aunt Harriet McMurry Stewart
My Great-Aunt Mary Harriet Stewart, lived about a mile south of our farm. I remember her as a pleasant lady, although she was short, heavy, stooped and, to me, elderly.
As a kid, anyone over the age of thirty was old. Now, I am "elderly," and I doubt that my children and grandchildren remember me as a young person. Isn't that a shame? However, I know that people are just as old as they feel. If one wants to feel old physically and slightly decomposed mentally, all he needs to do is make himself believe he is. I now realize that Aunt Harriet was far from old, mentally and emotionally. Certainly, she showed her physical age, but she was as bright as any person I ever knew, and I loved her.
Aunt Harriet was actually my great aunt, but she was always just Aunt Harriet to me. Forget the great aunt stuff. It was too much trouble to address her that way all the time.
Aunt Harriet raised a large family of nine kids, but when I remember visiting her, all her children were gone from home except Dica, her unmarried daughter. Dica was my Dad's cousin, and therefore, my cousin once removed. Since it didn't seem proper for a kid to call a grown person by only a first name, or even Cousin Dica, Mom suggested that I call her Aunt Dica.
Aunt Harriet was ninety-three when she died in 1941, so I have many memories of her. My most vivid memories, however, are of my visits when I was just a kid.
Often Aunt Dica would greet us at the door, and it wouldn't be long before she would offer a piece of her fresh-baked bread.
She would cut a heal from a loaf of bread she had just taken from the oven, and spread it with her home-churned butter and plum jam.
It seemed to me that when I visited them they were either baking bread or cookies, or making jam. They, too, just like Great-Aunt Jane, made great plum jam. There were lots of wild plums in the sand hills north of town, and anyone who wished could pick them. Both Aunt Harriet's and Aunt Jane's families must have made a habit of picking their share as they always seem to have plum jam to offer visitors.
I can still smell and taste that bread to this day. Yum, yum!
Some of my fondest memories of visiting Aunt Harriet were the times she would show me how to use her spinning wheel.
"Aunt Harriet, can we go up to the attic so you can show me how to spin thread?" I would beg nearly each time we'd go to visit. (At that time I didn't know the difference between the words "can" and "may." Darlene has been trying to teach me about them for years, but I doubt if I will ever learn the lesson correctly.)
If the conditions were right, time-wise, she would sometimes honor my request. I remember one particular day that she was baking cookies when we arrived. When I made my usual request, she answered, "Of course. Give me a few minutes, Glenn. My cookies will be out of the oven shortly. Then, we'll go upstairs and do some spinning."
I knew that not too many years before, Aunt Harriet had made her own thread, dyed it and woven it into cloth. I was glad that she was willing to take the time to show me how she did it.
When she was finished with her cookies, she gave me a couple. Boy, were those hot cookies good! I could have eaten several more, but she was ready to go upstairs.
The attic stairs were very narrow and steep. Aunt Harriet was so stooped I don't know how she was able to climb them. I climbed the stairs after her to the little room where she kept the old wooden spinning wheel and other related paraphernalia.
The room had a low ceiling and was jammed with boxes and a few old trunks with curved lids. I wondered if they had brought those things from Tennessee.
Right in the middle of the room to the left of the stairs was that old spinning wheel. The room had two windows, and they were only about two feet square. The ceiling was sloped like the roof of the house. There were two other rooms in the attic, one to the right of the stairs and the other back of the stairs. The door to that room was open and I could see an old fashioned bed, a chair, a set of shelves and a rocker in it.
I wondered who slept in that bed. Maybe it was Aunt Dica's room or maybe it was for guests. I surely wouldn't want to stay all night in that room. It was too spooky!
I can still see Aunt Harriet as she sat down on a little chair near the spinning wheel and smoothed her skirt and apron just so. Then she gave the wheel a few gentle turns to see if everything was working right. It did work. Just like clockwork.
I wondered how many hours she had spent sitting at that spinning wheel.
Then Aunt Harriet began to demonstrate her technique for making wool into yarn for weaving.
"We always had sheep on our farm," she said. "Uncle Mart, my sons, and the hired help would shear the sheep each year. We kept what wool we needed for making our warm clothing, and sold the rest."
"The first thing I had to do was clean, wash and dry the wool. Then, when it was ready, I would card it," she explained.
"The strands of wool had to be straight before they could be made into thread. Carding the wool was hard work."
The carding devices, actually two identical units, were rectangular pieces of wood about five by eight inches and three-quarters of an inch thick. They had handles on one side, and on the other were many little steel wires like bristles on a hairbrush. The little wires were about one-half inch long, and were arranged in straight rows.
Aunt Harriet picked up some wool from a basket nearby and proceeded to show me how to card it.
"I hold one of the cards upside down," she explained. "Then, I place a tuft of wool on the other card, and pull the two cards together, straightening the strands of wool. When I get several strands, I roll them into a fluffy roll like this."
As she talked she prepared several neat fluffy rolls, each about a half-inch around and eight inches long. When she had quite a pile in her little wicker basket by her side, she started the spinning process.
Aunt Harriet's old wooden spinning wheel was handmade.
"My uncle made this wheel for me when I was still in Tennessee," she said. "It was shipped here by train with all our other family belongings when we moved to Kansas."
I'm sure as a kid I didn't think too much about how Aunt Harriet's uncle made her spinning wheel. Today, since I know more about working with wood, I know he must have been quite a craftsman to fashion the wheel with its spokes and a little groove to hold the round leather belt that connected it to the shuttle. The shuttle was approximately an inch in diameter and eight inches long. The wheel and shuttle were mounted on a board about six inches wide and four feet long, which sat on four round short legs. On top of the board were upright pieces to support the wheel and the shuttle.
I can still remember how fascinated I was as I watched Aunt Harriet spin those fluffy rolls of wool into thread. As she turned the large wooden wheel, the shuttle turned very fast. She attached a piece of wool to the shuttle and it twisted as the shuttle turned. Carefully she would tighten the little thread of wool, feeling it between her thumb and first finger, and then she'd add another piece of wool. Soon she would have quite a bit of wool thread on the shuttle. What a job! Imagine the time it took to spin enough thread to make a blanket, or even a little shawl.
Aunt Harriet told me that she used to have a loom, which she used to make cloth, but it had been sold some years before. By the time I was born, cloth could easily be purchased in the stores. I know it must have been a real thrill to women, such as Aunt Harriet, when they no longer had to do all their our spinning and weaving.
Although spinning and weaving were very time-consuming jobs, I'm sure the ladies Aunt Harriet's age took pride in their work and felt a sense of joy when they made beautiful and useful things. I suppose, in a way, it's like the joy my wife gets when she finishes a cross-stitch project on which she has spent many, many hours. I can say the same about my pottery creations. There is something special about things made "by hand" as opposed to those mass-produced by machines.
Aunt Harriet often told me stories about her life as a pioneer woman. She had a wonderful memory. The two stories I remember best are about the Indians and the buffalo.
When my McMurry ancestors arrived in Kansas, there were still some Indians in the area. They were nomadic in nature and didn't stay in one place for long.
"One day we saw a group of Indians coming toward our house," Aunt Harriet said. "They wandered around awhile and finally started to snoop around close to the house. I told the children they were just inquisitive, but to hide anyway so they couldn't be seen through the windows."
As she told this real-life story of those early days, I conjured images in my mind. I was with her when those Indians peered into her windows. I had goose pimples listening to her describe the situation. I could just see myself hiding in a closet, or behind a door trying to keep from breathing.
Another real-life story she told was about the buffaloes. She said they would see thousands of them passing by.
"Those animals would pass by for hours," she said. "I guess their instinct told them where to go to find better grass."
My imagination would run wild when she told about the buffaloes. In my mind's eye, I could see Indians, with bows bent to the limit and arrows ready to shoot the buffalo. Then there came Buffalo Bill Cody riding madly on his spotted horse, riding high in his stirrups, aiming his long barreled rifle, ready to shoot as many as he could before the herd got away. Of course, I also saw fights between the Indians and the cavalry.
As I think about it now, I'm afraid the early movies about Indians caused
people to be prejudiced against them. Only in more recent years have we
begun to repent of some of our treatment of the native Americans. We realize
they killed buffalo for life's necessities. In contrast, our early Indian-fighting
heroes killed buffalo for sport or for money they might get for the hides.
Sad! Now, at last, the buffalo is a protected animal.
Great-Uncle Martin Stewart
I never knew my Great-Uncle Martin Stewart, Aunt Harriet's husband. He died in 1911, at the age of sixty-eight. Of course, that was before I was born. I don't really know the cause of his death, but I believe the folks said it was "galloping consumption." It always seemed to me that was a common cause of death in those years. Maybe if the doctors didn't know anything else to call an illness, that's what they called it.
However, Dad told me numerous stories about Uncle Mart, as he was called.
According to Dad, Alcy and Luther, Uncle Mart's sons, were always playing dastardly tricks on their Dad. In fact, it seemed they did everything they could to make life miserable for him.
Of all the stories Dad told about Uncle Mart, this one about his pipe made the biggest impression on me.
Dad explained that Uncle Mart smoked one of those crooked pipes and one could smell that stinking pipe as soon as he entered their home. He seemed to always have his pipe in his mouth, whether or not it was lit.
Dad quoted Uncle Mart as saying, "My danged legs just won't work right." It seems he spent most of his time in his favorite rocking chair for a number of years before he died. He would sit, smoke his pipe, and order his boys to do everything for him. I suppose his boys resented being bossed around and that led them to take advantage of him at times.
Dad's funniest Uncle Mart story was about the time a couple of his boys stuffed his favorite pipe with blasting powder. Of course, it blew up in his face when they lit it for him. Apparently the charge of blasting power wasn't enough to cause much physical harm, but it was enough to make Uncle Mart very angry.
The boys knew he couldn't catch them to punish them, but what he could do was give them a good cussing. According to Dad, he was a champion cusser.
I can still hear my Dad roar with laughter as he related that story to me.
I remember Alcy and Luther as grown men with families, both much older than they were when the pictures below were taken.
Alcy Stewart and Nola Shaw on their Wedding Day, Nov 16, 1898
Luther "Bill" Stewart
My Great-Uncle Charles also made his home on a farm near my folks. When he was eighty-four years old, he wrote a terrific account of his life, telling how he, along with relatives and neighbors, migrated to farms south of Hutchinson. He was only six years old at the time, but he remembered about the trip.
They left Brownsville, Tennessee, on the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. At St. Louis they changed trains and the train was put on a ferry because there was no bridge across the Mississippi River. The same thing happened when they crossed the Missouri River into Kansas. From Atchison, Kansas, to Hutchinson they rode the Santa Fe train. That trip must have been quite an experience. They felt they were moving to a "far away western country."
I learned from Uncle Charlie's stories that Kansas had cyclones even then. He told how one "laid the south side of our house down without cracking but one window. The Seth Thomas clock landed upside down on the floor, but ran as good as ever when set up with the pendulum in place."
The first thing that family did when arriving in Reno County was to plant trees all over the place. They had found little cottonwood trees growing along the Arkansas River and they transplanted them along the roads and around their homes.
By the time I was in my teens, most of those original cottonwood trees had either blown down or been cut down. Some of the very large ones that were left were dangerous when the wind blew. I remember Dad cutting some of them down to use for firewood. When I helped him use his two-man saw, I made hard work out of it until he taught me how to "let the saw glide through the log, don't force it." Dad was right. When done right, the hard work was certainly made easier.
Grasshoppers hit the farmers just as they did in my day. I guess there have been such plagues ever since Bible times. I know we certainly learned about grasshoppers, especially in Western Kansas.
Uncle Charlie said that there were three kinds of transportation in those days, by wagons, horseback and walking--mostly walking. I guess I wasn't far from those days. I used all three of those modes of getting around also. However, the Model T Ford did come on the scene some years before I was born. Thank heavens for Henry Ford!
I was interested in what Uncle Charlie wrote about the wild life in those days.
"About the first things we noticed as to wild life were the prairie dog towns. They would cover two or three acres. They were holes in the ground inhabited by prairie dogs, owls and rattlesnakes."
"Prairie chickens were here in abundance. Wild geese were here by the thousands in the spring and fall. They made great sport for the hunters. The white geese were more plentiful, but they weren't fit to eat. The gray geese were fine for eating. I can't recall having seen a live buffalo on the prairie but at a fourth of July celebration at Castleton in 1874 a lone buffalo was sighted and men got on their horses and gave chase, overtaking it about a mile from my home and killing it."
Here his story differed from tales Aunt Harriet told about the buffalo. Of course, it could be that his memory, her memory, or my memory of what Aunt Harriet told is faulty. Who knows the real truth when it comes to memories of those of us in our seventies and eighties.
I want to quote the last paragraph from Uncle Charlie's story as it so well fits how I feel today as I look back at my life. For sure, I'm glad we don't have to watch for unfriendly Indians.
"I have often heard old people in my youth wish for the good old times of long ago. I could not understand why those times were any better than the times we were having, but now in going over and thinking about the time when I was young, I am almost ready to join them in their wish, but why not look at our times now, enjoy them, and be satisfied."
I know where Dad got a lot of his ideas. He got them from his Uncle Charlie. He was into everything those days. When the telephone became a reality, he promoted, built and operated the telephone company in the nearby town of Turon. That was a winner! Although he sold his interest in the company some years later, Uncle Charlie had made his mark.
Uncle Charlie organized the wheat farmers in the area, and then purchased a new threshing machine and rented it out to them. It was a dragon-like machine with sharp knives "in its mouth." I played in it and cut a deep gash on the knuckle of my right forefinger. I notice that scar each time I play the piano or use the computer.
Uncle Charlie introduced my family to the self-propelled wheat combine. He was also a land developer of a sort, and was always willing to give free financial advice to anyone willing to listen. Dad also got his ideas for starting a diary business from him.
Uncle Charlie was an expert craftsman, and built a beautiful house for his family. His three-story home had nice hardwood floors, fine cabinetwork, a wrap-around porch and uniquely designed staircases.
When Uncle Charlie got old, he became very senile and just withered away. Perhaps he had altzheimers, but in those days there was no such word. He died quietly in the back seat of his son's car while on a family outing. Rather than stop at the next town, they returned to the funeral home in Hutchinson. Of course, the coroner was called and his report showed that Uncle Charlie had died of natural causes. I was always impressed with the autopsy report that his brain had shrunk and was no bigger than an orange.
Uncle Charlie lived a full, interesting and illustrious life. He died
at the age of ninety-two. I'm not sure whether they used the word "entrepreneur"
in his day, but if they did, he would certainly have been called one.
My grandfather, William Eli McMurry, was born July 18, 1862, in Brownsville, Tennessee. He was only eleven years old when his parents moved to Kansas. He attended Elmer school where both my father and I went. As I recall, it was called Bernal instead of Elmer at that time. Grandfather McMurry earned a teaching certificate and taught grade schools in the area for eleven years.
The McMurry family were faithful members of the Elmer Methodist Church. They attended the same little church my family attended until we moved to Western Kansas. My Grandfather was the choir director at the church. He also was instrumental in organizing and teaching community singing schools.
My Great-Grandfather Ruegger on my mother's side was also a singer and directed vocal groups. My father was a singer, too, and my Aunt Myrtle was a pianist, who gave piano lessons for many years. Perhaps my interest in music and what musical talent I have were inherited from my musical ancestors.
Originally, the old farmhouse, where my grandparents lived and where
both my father and I were born, had only two rooms. The north room was
the bedroom and the south room served as kitchen and living room. As the
family grew, other rooms were added, two more downstairs and an upstairs
with two bedrooms. Later additions included another downstairs room and
a root cellar.
Grandpa, Aunt Florence, Dad, Grandma, and Aunt Myrtle
In front of the McMurry Farm Home
"The McMurry Farm House Looked Like This When I Was Born"
I remember when Grandpa and my Dad added the root cellar. Here is a picture of my Grandpa digging that cellar.
Digging it was a big job as every shovel of dirt had to be carried by hand from under the house. When our family returned from Western Kansas, I added another section to the west end of the cellar to have room for a new well and an electric hot water heater.
Was I ever glad that Grandpa and my Dad had constructed that cellar! It was a great "root" cellar, meaning a place to store vegetables, such as potatoes, beets, turnips and onions. Most important to me, however, was the protection it gave us from Kansas tornadoes and cyclones. We were often herded down the stairs to that storm cellar to wait out one of those frequent, frightening storms. In that cellar, we felt safe.
The following experience surely must be described as an anomaly. It is a memory I have of my Grandpa and my Dad working together to improve the farm home. I was watching them use the sledgehammer to break some old cement sidewalk west of our house. Suddenly, a full- sized toad, covered with a coating of cement powder, hopped out of the broken cement. He headed toward some tall grass about twenty feet away and disappeared. He didn't seem to have suffered from the experience. As a matter of fact, he seemed to have plenty of energy for the trip! The old toad certainly stood his "Rip Van Winkle" experience well. He had no trouble jumping around immediately upon being released. As I remember the story, old "Rip" had rheumatism!
Upon closer examination of the cement debris, we noticed a nice hole in one of the pieces of broken cement. It was round and smooth in the inside, much like a chicken egg, and large enough to hold that toad. Apparently the toad had moved about enough during the hardening stage of the cement to make an adequate "home" in which to wait patiently until years later when someone came along with a sledge hammer. My Dad didn't remember exactly when the sidewalk was made, but he was certain it was there long before I was born. Since I was about ten years old when this happened, that toad had been there a long time. Cement being of a rather poor quality in those days, it accepted water easily, and so the toad was saved from complete dehydration.
The hole in the cement reminded me of holes made by toads as they bury themselves deep in the mud as ponds are drying up during prolonged dry seasons. There they stay in hibernation until the next rainy season. That explains why an old dry pond never seems to lack for croaking toads immediately after a good rain following a long drought.
After my Dad and Mom were married, my grandparents moved to Winfield, Kansas. This allowed my parents to live on the homestead. There was some kind of financial arrangement, somewhat like landlord and tenant, between my folks and his parents. This move also made it easy for my Aunt Myrtle to get a proper music education at Winfield College of Music to become a piano teacher.
Later, the family moved back to Hutchinson. My grandfather's last home was the one I came to know so well on Ninth Street.
Grandfather McMurry's Home in Hutchinson, 114 West 9th Street.
Mom, Grandma McMurry, Aunt Florence, and Aunt Myrtle
on the Steps of the Hutchinson Home
In my eyes my Grandpa McMurry was a wonderful man. My Dad and Grandpa were alike in many ways. One of my memories is hearing my Grandpa saying mealtime prayers. Following the same custom, my father always said grace before each meal.
Grandpa was regular about having his devotions with his family. Morning was the time for them. I can remember being at their home for breakfast. When Grandma was ready, she called the family together and the entire family knelt by their chairs. My folks had their prayer time, too, but they didn't get on their knees. I guess that praying on knees at mealtime was a custom that changed over the years.
Grandpa McMurry died of cancer at age 62. Although I was only seven years old, I well remember times when he was sick and we would go to visit. I was always told to be very quiet, and one day I expressed the wish that he would die so I could again play and have fun. I have never forgotten the reaction of my parents when I said that.
As his illness progressed, Grandpa was taken to the hospital. When it became apparent death was near, I was brought to his hospital bedside to receive his "blessing." He told me to "always mind my mother and father, and grow to be a fine young Christian man like my father."
Grandpa asked to be taken back home to die, and he was granted his wish.
I must have remembered and tried to follow my grandfather's advise. At least I didn't get into any really "bad" troubles as I grew up. I did try to mind my mother and father, and I'm sure that many times my actions were determined by the principles they taught me. I remember my Mom would often tell me that I was a good boy and would say, "Glenn, you don't have a lazy bone in your body." Her belief in me probably had a big influence over the way I have lived my life.
Grandpa's niece, Tennessee, who was nicknamed "Tennie," was a poet.
It was always said that she could write a poem at the "drop of a pen."
She was my Great-Aunt Harriet's daughter. When Grandpa died, she penned
this poem in his honor.
Written in memory of Uncle Will McMurry
There'll be no shadows.
Oh hear that high, clear voice;
He sings as one of God's own saints
Who run and do rejoice
There'll be no shadows
On the other side,
And on his face the look of those
Whose souls in peace abide.
Jesus is the sunshine
Of that land so fair.
He seems to look beyond the Vail
And ken the Glories there.
Sin and death can never
Triumphant now, and clear
As he sings it seems almost
That angels hover near.
Oft' have I thought that any pain
However hard to bear
Would easier be if through it I
That well loved Voice might hear.
When in the land of light and song
I dwell among the blest,
I hope to hear that strong sweet Voice
00000">Ring high above the rest.
This is the obituary my Mom wrote for Grandpa's funeral:
|William Eli McMurry was born July 18, 1862, at Brownsville, Haywood
County, Tenn, and was called home Feb 4, 1924. He came to Reno County as
a small boy in Nov 1876. He taught in the public schools of Reno County
for eleven years, then settling on his farm near Darlow, Kansas, until
1911 when for a short time the family resided at Winfield, returning to
this city in 1917. On Sept 1st, 1886, he was married to Ida L. Uhl, and
to this union was born three children, one son, Fred, who lives at Darlow,
and two daughters, Florence and Myrtle who reside at home. Besides his
wife, and children, he leaves three grandchildren, Fred Jr., Helen and
Glenn; two sisters, Mrs. Harriet Stewart, of Darlow, and Mrs. J. C. Moore;
and one bother Charles, both of this city (Hutchinson, Kansas).
In his early boyhood days, he was converted and joined the Methodist church of which he remained an active member up until the time of this death. During his seven months illness his patient endurance was remarkable, he made a heroic fight for the sake of his loved ones; but when he saw that the fight was in vain he said, "It's all right, I am ready." He requested all that had ever known him be told that it was a joy to come to the end of the way prepared. He spent his remaining vitality in giving advice and in council with his family.
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith."
The following is a tribute from my Grandpa McMurry's Sunday School Class:
|Whereas - In the death of our brother, Mr. William Eli
McMurry, the Christian Worker's Class of the First Methodist Sunday School
has lost one of it's most valued members, an earnest worker in the cause
of Christ, faithful in the service as teacher of the class - ever ready
at all times to perform any duty entrusted to him and always loyal to the
best interests of the class - and
Whereas - We feel that the class, the Sunday School and the Church have lost a true friend, generous, merciful, ready to pardon, longsuffering, slow to anger, of great kindness, doing good; therefore be it
Resolved - That while in his promotion we realize our loss, yet we feel that our lost is his great gain.
Our sorry is tempered by the remembrance of his many noble traits of character and sterling integrity and Christian manhood.
His enemies were the enemies of good, the enemies of the church. His foes were the foes of righteousness.
He fought the good fight of faith, and this church and community are better because he lived in it.
We shall miss his cheerful presence, his noble example and his wise counsels.
Resolved - That while we feel our personal loss is great, we recognize the still greater aching void in the hearts of those nearest and dearest to him and hereby extend our sympathies to the family in this hour of their great sorrow.
Resolved - That these resolutions be spread upon the minutes and a copy be sent to the family of the deceased.
That he is dead, he is just away!
With a cheery smile and a wave of the hand,
He has wandered into an unknown land
And left us dreaming. How very fair
It needs must be, since he lingers there.
Think of him still as the same, I say,
He is not dead, he is just away."
W. S. Hamby
J. M. Wyman
Feb 24, 1924
Grandma Uhl McMurry
My Grandmother Ida McMurry's maiden name was Uhl. About all I know about her parents is that they came from West Virginia. I don't know how many were in her family, but I did know her four sisters, Myrtle and Pearl, who were twins, Dora and Nelle.
Great-Aunts Myrtle and Pearl were never married and lived together in Hutchinson all their lives. They were very difficult to get along with. To me they were really almost simple-minded, and to be pitied. My Mom would say that when they were born each got only half a brain. At any rate, they fussed with each other continuously. Grandpa and later my Dad had to settle their quarrels. Some of those quarrels were really fights.
Aunt Myrtle would usually be the one to call my Dad. Her conversation would be something like, "Fred, come quick! Pearl is hitting me with her fists." or "Pearl is trying to kill me."
"Go outside the house and wait until I get there, Aunt Myrtle," would be Dad's usual instructions.
Dad took her calls for help seriously because one time she told Dad that Pearl was threatening her with the butcher knife. Whatever Dad was doing or wherever he was, when such calls came, he knew he had to stop, unhook the team of horses, put them in the barn, hurry to town and try to settle the fight.
The two women were about as opposite as they could be. Aunt Myrtle was a simple lovable person. I liked her as she always played with me as though she were a little girl. Aunt Pearl was different. She always had a hard look about her. She would stare at things and people intently as though she was plotting something against them.
Aunt Myrtle Uhl died while I was the Pacific during the war. Aunt Pearl had quite a reputation. The nurses insisted that Aunt Pearl poisoned Aunt Myrtle. If you don't think that caused rumors to go rampant, guess again.
When Aunt Pearl got feeble, Mom took care of her. Whenever I would visit, she always acted as if I had it in for her. She was sure that I was going to do something to her. When she became bedridden, if I came close to her bed, she would cover herself with her blanket and squeal.
At mealtime, Aunt Pearl always gave the impression that she was dying of starvation. She could hardly wait for Dad to give the blessing. She would dive into the mash potatoes as if she was stabbing a dragon. It was not unusual to have her take half the entire bowl of potatoes. Although we felt sorry for her, we would have to smother our laughter at her antics. I really felt sympathy for my parents, especially Mom, for the trying times they endured as they cared for Aunt Pearl in her last days.
The other sisters lived away from Hutchinson and I saw them only occasionally
when they came on visits. Great-Aunt Nelle Bates lived south of Los Angeles.
After I moved to California in the fifty's, I visited her a few times.
She and Dora were both pleasant people and my parents enjoyed visits with
them when they came back to Hutchinson on trips. However, my Grandmother
and her twin sisters, Myrtle and Pearl, caused our family many problems
through the years.
Grandma must have been a very selfish and immature person. Dad told me several stories about Grandpa's problems with Grandma. One was about the times he and his father would be working in the fields together, and his father would be troubled by some particular problem. He would stop the horses and say something like, "Freddie, you know we are having problems with your mother and the only thing I can do is pray about it." Then they would kneel down in the freshly plowed soil, bow their heads and Grandpa would pray about the troubles.
A story my Dad told me about the "egg" money, meaning cash for eggs sold, shows something about my Grandma's disposition. She always insisted that all the "egg" money was hers to use in any way she wished. One day after Grandpa sold the eggs at the grocery store, and went about his shopping, he somehow lost the money. When Grandma found out that she didn't have her "egg" money, she had a real "fit," and rather than spend the rest of the day trying to calm her, Grandpa gave her money that he really needed for other things.
"Why did Grandpa give her that money? He didn't steal it," I asked Dad when he told me that story.
"Glenn, your Grandpa was a very patient man. He had to be to deal with your Grandmother," he explained to me. I guess my Dad inherited some of his patience, because he, too, was a very quiet, patient man.
My Grandpa's own daughters, Florence and Myrtle, fussed with their mother, and Grandpa again had to be a peacemaker. After Grandpa was gone, my Dad and, later, even I got into the fracas, always trying to keep the peace.
After Grandpa died, Grandma and my aunts were left together in the old home on Ninth Street in Hutchinson. However, they didn't live together harmoniously by any means. Grandma had called for a division of the property so an agreement was reached that the house would be hers and the farm would belong to the three children, my Dad and my two aunts. Gradually more and more friction arose between Grandma and my aunts, and finally, Aunt Florence and Aunt Myrtle decided to move out of the old home and leave Grandma on her own. It wasn't long before Grandma decided the big old house was too much for her to care for so she asked Dad to find her a small house. So she would have some income, Dad helped her get a renter for the old home. Fortunately, Reverend Abel, the District Superintendent of the Methodist Church and a friend of Dad's, was looking for a home at the time and was happy to move into it.
The breakup of the family was difficult for me. I loved all of them dearly and had always liked visiting them in the old home on Ninth Street. For awhile instead of having my piano lessons there, I now had to go to another house. By the time I was attending my ninth grade at Sherman Junior High in Hutchinson, my piano lessons gradually came to a halt. However, I could walk to Aunt Myrtle's and we would sometimes enjoy playing piano duets together. She would also listen to me as I practiced the music for the Sherman operetta "Pickles.".
After the troubles that caused us to move to Western Kansas, which I
will explain in my section on Western Kansas, my family had little communication
with my Dad's mother and sisters for some time. However, I continued to
write to both my grandma and aunts, and I would visit them when I could.
Somehow, I always felt that I had to bring everyone together again. Later,
I will relate more details of how I persuaded them to again live together
in the old home, and how we finally reached an agreement for my folks to
leave Western Kansas and move back to the homestead, where Dad could farm
as a renter.
Grandma's Death and Will
Grandma McMurry was born August 18, 1867, and died June 20, 1945, at the age of 78. I hadn't yet returned from the war. She apparently had a very unhappy life while living with her daughters. Since I was responsible for bringing them together, I felt guilty that her remaining years seemed to be so miserable. Her will, which was read after I came home from the South Pacific, proved one of the most poignant documents I had ever seen or heard. As her lawyer, Mr. Russell, read it in its entirety, I realized the extent of the troubles between her and her daughters.
Apparently Grandma had detailed her problems to Mr. Russell and had him prepare a will which, in her mind, would make all things right. I had never before, nor have I since, experienced such an embarrassing situation as what occurred at the reading of that will. There we were, my father, my brother, my aunts and myself, listening to all the reasons, in detail, why Grandma wanted to disinherit her own daughters. She accused them of stealing from her all her precious things, such as linens and dishes. Further, as the house belonged to her, she demanded a complete financial accounting. The upstairs bedrooms of the house had been rented to some young girls, and she claimed her daughters had taken the rent money from her. She further claimed that she had been treated as a virtual prisoner in her own home. Of course, my aunts were outraged and insulted as they heard the reading. Dad, my brother and I sat quietly through the long humiliating harangue.
Grandma left her two daughters one dollar each. Junior was to get two hundred dollars, and I was to get the treasured set of family dishes. The balance of her property, including the house, was left to my Dad. Of course, since my Dad had signed his interest in the farm to my aunts several years before we went to Western Kansas, they still had that, but no place to live. They couldn't do the farming and needed a renter on the farm. The last thing my Dad wanted to do was to move to town. He would have no income, and besides that, his life work had always been farming. What would he do in town?
To make things worse for me, I was named as the executor of the will, and the court ordered me to carry out its provisions to the letter. I was absolutely devastated. I realized that all my good intentions to mend the family's problems had only made them worse. Nothing that I could say or do would satisfy my aunts. Their rage increased and turned back on me. I, the once-loved nephew, was now the ugly rogue and their enemy.
I tried to do my job of accounting for the household furnishings, but I was getting nowhere. My aunts insisted that the dishes and many other things in the house were theirs, and not Grandma's. They would not allow me to do an inventory of the household items as called for in the will.
Finally, my Dad got into the act. He suggested that we let the will be broken. He agreed to let my aunts have the house in exchange for an eighty of farmland. He agreed to farm the other eighty and give my aunts the landlord share of the profits from it. Moreover, he agreed to accept the entire mortgage debt on the entire farm. Aunt Myrtle and Aunt Florence could keep the treasured china dishes. They were very determined that they owned them, and not Grandma. Furthermore, Aunt Myrtle said she had painted the gold rims and "M" on them. Junior and I each were to get two hundred dollars. As bad as they wanted the dishes, they were insulted when I said I'd take two hundred dollars and forget the dishes.
"What do you mean! Don't those dishes mean any more than that to you?" Aunt Myrtle blurted out.
I knew it would be a long time before we could all be good friends again,
but finally, all agreed to break the will, and let bygones be bygones.
My folks were very happy to have the whole mess settled. They were also
glad to be able once again to have the old homestead as their home. My
aunts were happy to get a home and some farmland free of debt. Junior was
two hundred dollars richer, which was a surprise to him as he didn't expect
anything. I, too, was two hundred dollars richer. In a way it was a bitter
sweet ending for me, as I would love to have had the beautiful dishes as
Grandma willed. After all the hassle over them, however, we would never
have enjoyed using them. I might add here that the set of china dishes
was the most complete set of chinaware I have ever seen, except, perhaps,
some I saw in castles in England. When Aunt Florence died, several years
after the deaths of her sister, my brother, and my Mom and Dad, the cherished
dishes, along with her home and all her other belongings, were sold at
auction to pay her hospital and nursing home bills.
Aunt Florence and Aunt Myrtle
Grandpa McMurry made certain his three children, Fred, Myrtle and Florence,
were able to take care of themselves. Fred, my Dad, was all set up. He
was to take over the home farm. Although neither of his sisters ever married,
they each had a trade and along with some income from the farm, were able
to take care of themselves financially. Aunt Florence and Aunt Myrtle were
both very industrious women. Aunt Florence took up sewing for which she
had received training in a special course at the agricultural college at
Manhattan, Kansas. Aunt Myrtle studied piano at Winfield College of Music
so she could teach the instrument privately. Grandpa urged them to set
goals for themselves and then he helped them accomplish them. I admired
all of them for their accomplishments.
Aunt Myrt, My Piano Teacher
Aunt Myrt had two catastrophes growing up. Both altered her life considerably. While playing with a broom, Dad accidentally struck her in the face injuring her eye, and causing her to have to wear glasses at an early age. Later, she somehow smashed the middle finger on her left hand. Part of the finger had to be removed, leaving a stub only. In spite of those problems, Aunt Myrtle was determined to study piano. It was difficult playing the piano with such a handicap, and she knew she wouldn't become a professional player. She just wanted to teach piano to others, and that's exactly what she did.
After Aunt Myrt graduated from the music school in Winfield, Grandpa moved his family back to Hutchinson. Mom then decided that all three of us kids should take lessons from Aunt Myrt. Why she felt that it was Aunt Myrt's responsibility to give, for free, three thirty or forty-five minute lessons each week, I don't know. They seemed to have made some kind of deal, because every Saturday was piano lesson time.
Here we are waiting for our piano lesson.
Although Aunt Myrt had only an old upright piano on which to give her lessons, she always kept it in good tune. It had an adjustable stool so kids of all sizes, height and weight could sit comfortably.
"Adjust the seat so your arms are parallel with the keyboard," she would say, and she meant it. Whether we could reach the floor seemed not to make any difference to her.
"Hold those hands off the keyboard and keep all fingers curved nicely," she would admonish. Aunt Myrt was particular about technique.
She gave music lessons all around the community, both in the city and
out in the country. Aunt Harriet Stewart's home was often used for lessons
and recitals. I can still remember my first recital piece. It was called
"Song of the Sea." Below is a copy of the recital program that my Mom saved.
At the Home of Mrs. Harriet Stewart
WEDNESDAY EVENING, SEPT. 3, 1924
At 8:00 o'clock
"Little Birdie" (*Duet) ------------------ D. D. Wood
Iím sure Aunt Myrtle was a good teacher, but she seldom played in public herself. I just have one memory of her playing at the Elmer Church. She and Aunt Florence apparently were visiting us that Sunday instead of attending their church in Hutchinson. Of course, attending the Elmer Church was like a homecoming for them as they had attended that church long before I was born.
One day Aunt Myrt told my Mom, "Glenn has something in those little fingers that make him different. You make him practice with diligence and together we can develop him into a good musician."
Mom did her part and by the time I got out of grade school, she and Aunt Myrt had molded me into a piano player. I later, much later, learned to appreciate what those two did for me. Regardless of my physical problems with my stroke, I can still play the piano. I am certain that when I get to Heaven, God will have a special white grand piano for me to play.
Since I took lessons from Aunt Myrt, my life was more closely tied to
her than to Aunt Florence. She was always very good to me, and I really
loved her dearly, despite the problems that arose later between my aunts
and my Mom and Dad.
Aunt Florence, the Seamstress
Aunt Florence stuck to her sewing. I have vivid memories of her sitting at her sewing machine from morning to night making clothes for a living. Although Aunt Florence didn't have the outgoing personality that Aunt Myrtle had, she always treated me fine as I was growing up. I suppose keeping out of her way helped insure that.
While I was at college, Aunt Florence made shirts for me. During my teaching career, she made all the uniforms for my band kids at Zook where I was directing music. I happen to know that Aunt Myrtle also assisted her by sewing on buttons and helping in any other ways she could.
Aunt Florence made Darlene's wedding dress from a nylon parachute, which I had sent from the Southwest Pacific while I was stationed there during the war. It was beautiful. When we celebrate our fiftieth wedding anniversary, I'm sure Darlene will try to put it on again. She says it may have to be altered to fit her increased waistline. Of course, I probably can't fit into my pants either. Come to think of it, I wonder how many couples after fifty years can actually wear the same size clothes they wore on their wedding day.
As they grew older, my aunts became more attached to each other. They were always seen together, shopping, at church, visiting friends, or wherever they went. They also liked to entertain their friends in their home. They seemed to have the knack of making and keeping loyal lifetime friends.
I used to think that Aunt Myrtle was the stronger personality, but when I grew older, I changed my ideas about that. I am now certain that, although Aunt Florence was a very quiet person, she really was the one who made the main decisions for both of them.
Aunt Florence rarely visited while working. She always seemed so busy, either cutting out a garment, sewing at her machine or by hand, fitting a new dress or coat on one of her clients, or altering some old piece of clothing.
Both my aunts kept me in my place when they were busy working. When Aunt Myrtle was giving a piano lesson, I had to stay out of the room until the lesson was finished. Both worked as though the whole world of business depended upon them.
"Save your money," they would say. "That rainy day is coming some day."
True, when you are dependent upon your craft to feed and clothe you,
saving what money you have earned is of great importance.
The Other Side of My Aunts
I had been told early in life that Aunt Florence and Aunt Myrtle felt that Mom wasn't good enough for their brother. That always hurt Mom, I know. As a matter of fact, there was always a certain amount of friction between my Aunts and my Mom. They tried, all of them, to hide their feelings, but as I viewed the situation, I could feel some underlying tension between them. They had too different styles of living. My Aunts had a perfectly kept house. They were the kind that ironed everything they washed, even dish cloths. Mom spent time outside with Dad, and they felt she neglected her "womanly" duties in the house. I did my best to see both sides.
Aunt Myrtle died in the early fifties from cancer. We were living in California at the time and did not get to attend her funeral.
Aunt Florence out-lived my parents and my brother. In her seventies she had cataract surgery, and afterward could thread a needle without her glasses. Anytime we visited, she always seemed to be busy with her sewing projects
Aunt Florence gave me considerable problems as she got older. Any time we were in Hutchinson, we would visit her. Once she wanted us to clean out her basement. After we tried to do that, she seemed to think we had no business messing with her things. We couldn't help notice how she was changing through the years. She became suspicious of everyone, thinking they were after her possessions. Although I wanted nothing of her belongings, I always felt, now that Aunt Myrtle, Dad, Mom and Junior were gone, it was my job to take care of her. I knew how my Dad had cared for his sisters year after year.
"Glenn, I need help. Can you come and help me?" That was the essence of a telephone call from Aunt Florence in Hutchinson. "I am very sick. Please, can you come right away?"
Remembering Dad at that moment, I could hear him say, "Glenn, you need to go and help Aunt Florence."
"Darlene, we must go and help Aunt Florence. How soon can we start for Hutchinson?"
"Just as soon as we can pack our van, we can go," she responded.
We left Culver City as soon as possible and made a fast trip to Hutchinson. When we arrived, Aunt Florence's neighbor, Mrs. Stevens, met us to tell us Aunt Florence was in the hospital.
What happened next can best be told in this letter we wrote to the relatives
after returning home.
|June 6, 1983.
Dear Nieces, Nephews and Tena:
Although some of you know part of what is in this letter, I felt I ought to report to all of you about our trip to Hutchinson last week concerning aunt Florence. (I'm making duplicate copies on my computer.)
On Wednesday, June 22, 1983, 1 received a telephone call from Mrs. Stevens, aunt Florence's neighbor, that aunt Florence wanted me to come back to Hutchinson to help her get into a home. Aunt Florence talked to me also, confirming Mrs. Steven's statement. Aunt Florence also said, "It is going to take money, and I need you to help me."
I had always told my father and aunt Florence that I would always be available to help in any way I could to make her life easier when the time came to change. Therefore I told her we would make plans to come.
The next day we talked to Dr. Barker in Hutchinson. He confirmed the fact that aunt Florence had to be in a home where she could have constant care. The neighbors were doing work that registered nurses should do. He confirmed the request that I, as the nearest relative, should come.
On Saturday morning, after we had made all arrangements here at home, I again called aunt Florence. I reminded her what she had requested of me and asked if she still wanted me to come. She said, " Yes!"
Since aunt Florence was my father's sister and my last tie to my family, I knew I would feel guilty if I did not go, regardless of the past family history.
Upon arriving in Hutchinson on Monday the 27th, we were met by Mrs. Stevens who reported that aunt Florence had had a stroke, or strokes of some type Sunday morning while we were on the road and that she was in the hospital. We went immediately to the hospital and found her in a state of disorientation. She seemed to know us, but we were not sure. The nurses said she told them her brother and sister were coming from California.
We saw the doctor the next morning and he confirmed her condition and tried to explain things to us. He had discovered that aunt Florence had lost her eyesight except for slight peripheral vision. She never admitted being near blind but complained she could not see things. She would have to feel her food to eat. The doctor again emphasized that we would have to put her into a nursing home.
Mrs. Stevens reported to us that aunt Florence had told her that she wanted to tell me about some of the family heirlooms. She also said aunt Florence wanted Debbie, Glenda's daughter, to have the flowered dishes in the kitchen cupboard. We tried to find out about heirlooms and confirm about the dishes but soon discovered that aunt Florence was incapable of any rational discussion. She would say "yes", "I wouldn't know about that," or "I don't remember" to anything that was asked of her. She did tell Mrs. Stevens that Glenn and Darlene had come to see her, however. Wednesday evening when Ron came, she apparently knew him but the next morning, when Darlene said, "Wasn't it nice to see Ron" she didn't know he had been there! We talked to her about going to a home, etc., and she agreed to everything. We noticed a definite personality change in aunt Florence and report this to help you understand her condition.
Discovering that aunt Florence had signed a "power of attorney" to Mr. William Swearer, Wiley Building, Hutchinson, KS 67501 (316-662-3331) her attorney, and Mrs. Stevens. her neighbor, we were puzzled as to what rights any of us had. Mrs. Stevens insisted that she agreed to take the power of attorney only so she could sign checks to help aunt Florence. I called the attorney and he expressed relief that I was there and said that as the nearest relative, I was in charge. I told him that I could not stay too long and that I would do exactly as he said. We discussed aunt Florence's physical and financial condition. We were both in agreement that the house should go first. I agreed to get her papers together so he could proceed.
The house was crawling with cockroaches. On Wednesday afternoon, we had it fumigated. Prior to fumigation, all foodstuffs had to be removed and plants removed or covered. We gave the neighbors, Mrs. Stevens and Mrs. Baze, any food that seemed fit for consumption. The next day Darlene did some cleaning in the kitchen and emptied the refrigerator. We also returned to Mrs. Daze some articles she had loaned aunt Florence... a room air conditioner. walkers, clock radio, etc.
On Friday morning, on doctor's orders, and with the help of the hospital's Social Service Director, aunt Florence was moved to Golden Plains Convalescent Center. 1202 East 23rd Street, Hutchinson, KS 67501. (Telephone 316-699-9393) She willingly signed the admittance papers as best she could. The Social Services Director had investigated for us the three homes she recommended. This was the only one with a vacancy. It is a very nice place with a simply wonderful staff of nurses. It is clean and cheerful. She has a window bed and is in a room with a quiet little lady who has been there six years and is blind and almost deaf.
Darlene and I discovered in conversation with Ron and Lynn that they felt they were not ready to sell the house or proceed with an auction of the personal property for six to eight weeks. Knowing that there was enough cash and CD's available to keep aunt Florence for some time, we decided that we were not needed any more. The charges are $41.50 per day double occupancy.
Friday afternoon, we took the keys, her official papers, and some cash we had found to Mr. Swearer. (Part of the cash was returned to us by the neighbors from monies used to purchase groceries for aunt Florence.)
The matter of a conservator for aunt Florence's affairs was discussed with Mr. Swearer. He at first suggested a bank or possibly Mrs. Stevens. I told him that Ron said he would be willing to be responsible for paying her bills. We left everything in Mr. Swearer's hands.
We are happy to report we had a safe trip home and had no traffic problems despite the 4th of July weekend. We stopped in Enid and visited Darlene's aunt Phoebe. Although she is almost 96 and nearly blind and hears hard, she is still alert and really enjoys being visited.
We visited Aunt Florence several times in the home on our trips back to Kansas. The last time we wondered if she even knew us.
We received a list one day of things to be sold at her sale, giving us a chance to bid on them if we wished. We had no interest in doing that. I'm sure her property had to be disposed of to pay her bills. We never knew any details of the property sales, nor did we desire to know of them. We were just thankful for what Ron and/or LaFaun and her husband, Lynn, did to settle Aunt Florence's affairs.
She lived for several years in the home. I felt sad when I was notified
of her death. Despite all the things between us, she had meant a lot to
me through the years.
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