So lucky to have strong role models!

On both sides of my family I’ve had women that were pretty amazing as role models.   Some are still around and others are just in my family history, but had an effect on the formation of who I am.  If you divide my family into my four grandparents, you will find that 75% have descended from ancestors that came to the United States before the Revolution.

That last 25% was my grandmother’s family that came over from Italy in the early 1900’s.  My grandmother was the last of nine children with the first three being born in Italy and coming over with just my great grandmother to follow her husband as he came to the Clinton IN and Belgiumtown IL, joining a cousin and finding work in a coal mine.    My great grandfather came over first leaving his wife to come on a ship with three very young girls over to the US.  At that point the trip involved bringing everything you wanted to keep in a chest and staying in a small area for a long time with a lot of other people, in the bottom part of the ship. Then arriving at Ellis Island, where if you (and the kids) had managed to remain healthy, you were quarantined in dormitories until you were cleared to leave the island.

My family then went on to Clinton Indiana where one of the girls passed away.  Over time they lost two girls out of all their children, one even having the same name as my grandmother.  My great grandfather worked in a coal mine, and the boys went on to join him as they became old enough. My grandmother being the youngest was the only child that managed to go to high school.  My great grandmother thought that she wasn’t as healthy as the others and would end up needing to work in some field that didn’t involve as intensive work… My grandmother at one point said she had wanted to be a nurse.  The kids all pulled money together and grandma made it to high school.  She borrowed books and studied as much as she could, going on to be a school teacher at the point when a college degree wasn’t necessary.

My great grandfather had passed away when my grandmother was only two from the flu of 1918.  He was in the process of applying for citizenship at the time, so the paperwork didn’t get completed. I’m not sure when my aunt’s finished their paperwork, but my great grandmother didn’t apply until shortly before her death in the 60s.  She lived simply in a small house in Belgiumtown Illinois, grew her own food, and cleaned houses for the coal miners in the area.  Most of my aunts and uncles lived nearby – within just a few blocks.

When my mother’s father drowned while my mother was only about 3, my grandmother and mother moved in with my great grandmother.  When my grandparents married my grandmother had to quit teaching since women teachers were not allowed to be married at that time.  (It seems crazy now to think about the restrictions they faced!)  My grandmother went on to do several things to keep my mother and herself fed and clothed until she met her second husband.

Even having never met my great grandmother I can say she was pretty amazing.  Traveling to a new country with three young kids by herself, not knowing the language, then raising the kids including suffering the loss of two of her children – and then the loss of her husband, and keeping everyone fed and clothed is pretty amazing.  Part of the time this occurred was during WWI and WWII when Italians weren’t high on the list of favorite people in the United States.   I remember one day coming home to tell my grandmother a new joke someone had told me that involved Italians.  I had no clue what the term Daigo meant, I’m not even sure the kid that told me the joke knew what it meant.  But my grandmother knew!  My grandmother could swear up a storm, but that was one word I learned not to ever repeat again.  There were others, things kids called them in school, but that one was my first experience with what my grandmother faced growing up.

My grandmother when first married had lived in a little shack, using a drawer for my mother to sleep in.  My grandfather worked a coal mine with his brothers – my grandmother’s brother built the shack if I remember right.  I’ve written about the stories from when my grandmother met her second husband, and remarried.  Like my great grandmother she originally avoided getting remarried.

There are so many things I learned from my grandmother, and so much more I could have learned from her.  All my grandmother’s (and aunts) have served through time as strong role models.

Schools and Moving

There are a lot of scary things going on right now with schools for sure ! We’ve looked at the small school district that

I’ve been seeing a story about an isolation room in a classroom in Loudin County that was  captured by a special needs students iPad.  It’s not the school we are looking at moving to – not even close, but seeing things like that is pretty scary when you are in a really good school and you are moving to a new school.

Seeing this story always reminds me of a boy  that was in my 5th grade class – in the 70s, really he was in my K- 8 at least…. The teacher  actually took tall bookcases and made a cage for him and put them around his desk at the back of the classroom. I don’t think it went on for several weeks, but I remember it going on for a little while…. The teacher finally made a deal with the student that he could goof off for a short time each day if he behaved the rest as something they both could live with. So I remember the first day of the ‘truce’ being the boy wheeling the teacher’s chair up and down the rows of desks and singing Row Row Row my boat… Thinking back I wonder what the parents would have thought of what was going on in our classroom. I know my mother tried to get that teacher elected when he ran for office years later, ‘to get him out of the classroom’… but I’m fairly certain that had to do with all the other years.

For me I remember that particular teacher as helping with a few things I needed help with.  I was ahead in math in 5th grade and he let me work ahead, which really meant in 6th grade when I had to go back to material I already knew I pretty much gave up on math.  5th grade was the year I learned how to do 8th grade math, binary arithmetic and really enjoyed math.  He was also our science teacher for 6th grade and when he caught my best friend, Iva and I with a dictionary we had made with our own secret language – he gave us time during class to work on it.

So I have to admit I have good and bad memories from growing up in a small town school as the geeky misfit kid. So is it best to move to a small town where every knows each other and there is more chance for the teachers to know everyone.  That same environment also means though that the small cliques that form tend to be more lifetime cliques.   I’ve only seen the larger schools through each of my children’s experiences.  For high school the large school battled us on everything from not allowing our exchange student attend to not allowing a schedule change mistake to be fixed until the second week because they were too busy with the freshmen.  Then there was the year my oldest had class in the cafeteria which also met in the entryway of the high school at one point.  He and two other students got forgotten for a special freshman award their freshman year because they were advanced and placed in with the upper classroom during the time period that the other students were pulled out for the award.  We’ve also had them accidently schedule kids for the classes and their pre-reqs for their same semester, and even better, send truancy notices for not sending letters explaining that we were called to pick them up from school when they got sick and had to sign them out of the high school.

The grade school I attended is no longer open, it was actually two buildings spread over two towns.  Muncie Fithian….  Muncie is now considered unsafe and is used for storage, Fithian is used for a private home.  At Muncie my cousin Olive Richter was the aid to the 1st grade teacher, my cousin Charlie Mitchill was the principal for the first two years, and my cousin Randy was the janitor.  At Fithian, my Aunt Ethel was in the office!  It was great seeing my aunt everyday.  I also would take the bus over to Muncie and participate in things at the church at Muncie Baptist despite not being a congregation member myself and being Catholic, they always let me participate (bible school and choir)…  I would practice after school with the choir and then my cousin Olive would drive me home.  I remember getting the chance to walk from Muncie school to the church with Iva and enjoying the freedom of wandering the town – and with Muncie that is pretty much the entire town.

Moving to Oakwood, we will be going to the new school, but right around the corner is the ‘new’ ice cream shop and a library.  I can already picture school pick up next year involving a chance to stop at the library and then get ice cream on the way home before fixing dinner.  The ice cream shop has pizza too!  I forsee a lot of pizza dinner nights in our future.




Time to go sledding!  It finally snowed here! Time to go sledding.  Growing up we had a lot more snow than we have here in Kentucky.  I remember playing on snow mobiles, riding on the river, going on trips through the woods from house to house.  Friends would show up on snow mobiles and we would hop on ours and join the caravan.

My dad would also take the tractor and plow our driveway, making a huge snow pile for us in the yard.  My brother and I would spend hours making snow tunnels through the piles. The tunnels would be a few feet long and perfect for sliding down over and over.  We would make igloos out in the yard and carry out our supplies to hang out in the yard, then spend the day playing outside.

Snow would drift against all the fence rows and  pile up to be several feet high.  I remember riding snow mobiles across the tops, above the fields – and that one time we hit the gap in the snow.  My mother was driving and I was riding and off we went into the air. Nothing…  I still keep saying we were lucky to have survived childhood.

We would ride up hills that I would now swear were at a 90 degree angle to the ground but surely weren’t completely 90 degrees, riding across rivers, with my dad’s instructions to not stop since it wasn’t frozen solid (go fast!), and of course we each had our own snow mobiles.  My father’s snow mobile was an el Tigre that had been modified to race. it was rare for my parents to let us ride it…. Mine was an arctic cat and so pretty!  I loved it, and I had the full snow suit with helmet, pants, snow boots, you name it.  It was our regular outfits for the winter and when not on us you put it on the earth stove to dry.

Of course one of the most important things to remember was to pee first. If you didn’t you had to hold it for a long time.   We would go out and ride for hours.  I kind of remember sleds being pulled behind snow mobiles, but it was more common years earlier to pull the sleds behind the mower.

Snow in the country also meant power outages, so we would use the wood stoves, wood furnaces, fireplaces, and kerosene lamps.   Toilets had to be flushed with whatever water was available and there was no way to wash up…. Well’s don’t work without power.  But I don’t remember it being that bad, though I do remember times when the power went out for a week or more at a time.

While we were playing outside, my dad would either join us or work around the farm moving snow with tractors.  Sometimes dad would end up having to tow people out of the ditch.  Dad was the go to person for anyone in the area being stuck in a ditch… surprisingly this meant we had a liquor closet completely stocked (although I don’t remember my dad drinking much).  A lot of the that liquor is still in the closet.  Dad would take his tractor and drive to wherever he was needed and pull the car, truck or whatever out of the ditch.

I still love the thought of sitting in the corner of the kitchen by the earth stove during the winter, reading a book!  I’m sure I still have a scar on my arm where I touched the stove and got a burn once too often, but I loved that corner of the kitchen.  I’ve tried sitting on the floor in front of our fireplace with a book in our house, but it just doesn’t have that cozy feel of the corner behind the wood stove.

The Illk Family

  The house I grew up in after 2nd grade was built by Abraham Illk.  Abraham Illk was born in Württemberg, Germany in 1834 and married Catherine Voth and had 8 children. He passed away on 1916 in Vermilion, Illinois, USA.  The stories I’ve heard tell that Catherine Voth last name was renamed to Ford and there was some story about adoption some where in the family too.  My ancestor from the same time was Mary Ford (Voth), daughter of Frederick Voth. She was married to William Lincoln Elderidge and lived just about 100 yards up the road. The documentation I have showing they were sisters is a newspaper article when their sister Christina passed away.

Christina was born in 1831 (2 years older than Catherine and 4 years older than Mary) and was born in Ohio.  The article says that Christina relocated to Illinois with her parents and family when she was a child.  Four sisters are listed that include Mary and Catherine plus two more a Mrs. John Manning and a Mrs. Julia Beyer.  She had eight children of her own (Fifteen grandkids!) .

When we moved into the house Ralph Goodrich was the owner – a descendant of Illk and Voth.  I still have a doll (the size of a 2 year 0old) that was in the house and said to be brought by the Voth family to the US when they immigrated.  I have down that Mary was born in Ohio according to the 1860 census – her mother Julia was also living with William and Mary Eldridge at the time.  Julia was listed as being born in Germany and was 70 – so her birth would have been around 1790. Catherine is listed as being born in 1833 PA by the 1900 census.  I’m sure the other sisters were living around the same area also.

The stories included that Voth worked at a tavern that was one of the stops for Abraham Lincoln on the Lincoln trail.  The house was then built in the mid 1800s and was put together from blocks made in the nearby woods.  My mother has even told me a story about one of the women from the house that lost a baby after binding her stomach too tight her entire pregnancy to hide the evidence and keep a job.   Life was definitely a lot tougher then…. I know even in the mid 1900s my own grandparents hid their marriage to allow my grandmother to remain teaching, since teachers couldn’t be married. (That’s women teachers, I’m sure there was no such restriction on men)

Ralph Goodrich left a lot things in the house when he moved – and my mother loves antiques.  Which is how I’ve ended up with this family bible.  They aren’t really in my direct family line but I think as my great great grandmother Mary Ford (m. William Lincoln Eldridge) was Catherine Ford’s sister it is worth including in my tree.  Mary Ford’s parent’s were Frederick Ford and Julia Smith and she was born in Ohio.  Julia was living with William and Mary Eldridge during the 1860 census. (Judy has these as William Frederick (Fred) m. Mary Watson as opposed to Frederick and Julia)

People on Ancestry have posted for Abraham (and Catherine):

Abraham ILLK B/2 Feb. 1835, Schorndorf, Wurtternburg, Germany -D/12 May 1916, Oakwood, Vermillion Co. Il.
M/4 Mar.1857 Danville, Il. to Catharine FORD B/20 Aug. 1833, Montgomery Co. Pa.- D/30 May 1916, Oakwood. Vermillion Co. Pa. Ford is not correct spelling for name. Her parents were suppose to be from Germany and changed the spelling of the German name. Do not know what it was supposed to be.
i:Julia Olive B/4 Nov1858-M/Albert Marion RAY, 6 Sept 1882-D/31 Dec 1951
ii:Samule B/30 Sept 1861-M/Elva RAY, ca 1885
D/22 Dec 1925
iii:Sarah Elizabeh B/5 Apr 1863-M/ B. F. Evans 25 Feb 1886-D/11 Nov 1947
iv:Lucy B/21 Sept 1865-D/date unk in Iowa
v:Franklin A. B/18 Oct 1868-D/date unk, Oakwood, Il
vi:Annette B/13 May 1871-D/26 May 1905
vii:Catharine B/28 Jan 1873-D/date unk, Oakwood, IL m. George Goodrich
– Ralph Goodrich
viii:Caroline MAY B/21 DEC 1875-d/10 July 1894

A neighbor, Judy Oakwood posted on the Ancestry Boards:

.  My mother, Ethel Illk Oakwood was the daughter of Frederick Illk and Mary Watson Illk – my great grandfather Gottlieb was a brother to Abraham, the first Illk brother to come to America. So Aunt Kate, as my mother called her was a first cousin to my grandfather Fred; and Ralph and my mom and uncle, Glenn Illk were second cousins. We were very close to Uncle Ralph as we called him.  I remember Uncle Ralph talking about his Grandma Voth so well. We moved to Saratoga, WY in 1982 – love the west. My brother, C.J., is still on the Illk farm back in Illinois – and now owns the house where my grandparents and my parents lived, and where my mother and uncle were born. My dad began farming in the mid-40’s, having been a coal miner, a grocery store owner with his father, and then got to farm – something he’d always wanted to do. He died in 1976, May13th – and my grandmother Mary Illk, died August 13, 1976. Ironically, my mom crossed on February 13, 1999 

My great grandfather was another John Gottlieb Illg – wife- Dorothea Eicholtz(sp?) came to America in the 1860’s with 5 of his 9 children(other 4 born here in USA). Older brother, Abraham Illg came first; then Jacob Frank Illg, then John G. All were farmers, father’s name Daniel Illg; mother Agnes Frank; homesteaded in Vermillion County, IL near Oakwood. They came from Grunbach, Wurtemburg, Germany, and had cousins named Rommel. My grandfather, William Frederick (Fred) )m. Mary Watson) heard from a cousin, Gertrude Rommel, in Germany until the war began. My mother: Ethel Dorothy Illk Oakwood- m. Clarence Glenn Oakwood. Hope this will help in your search for family history.

In the items Ralph left us a bible was included.  I’m going to try to repair as best I can since the cover is detached, but I’ve copied the pages that are covered with family information.  I love saving the information and don’t want to see any of it lost over time.  After repairing it I’m going to check with the Genealogical Society and the Vermilion County Museum to see if either would like to put it in their library.

I would LOVE to find copies of the local newspaper for the Oakwood area for the time, but I’m afraid most have been lost over the years.


Mice, fire, syrup and the past

The holidays are always a time to get together and tell stories about the past.


My oldest drove in from VT (bringing syrup for everyone) and that spurred stories about my mother making syrup from our trees – in our yard – in Illinois.  She would collect the sap from a few of the trees and then let it sit in a big cast iron pot on the cast iron stove in the kitchen for days.  I’m not positive if my brother tried it, but I never worked up the courage myself to give it a try.

Growing up my mother frequently was coming up with ideas to try to maker our own.  I’ll never forget the chicks being raised in the kitchen in a big pen with a heat lamp.  She’s done that one a few times, a few different ways.  Then there was deer jerky that she would cut the strips and let them sit on the wood burning stove in the closed top portion.  The strips also would lay across the bars for days.  That same deer meat used for the jerky was what we used to eat for most meals, and my parents would go out and hunt it each season then hang the deer in the shed.  My dad would go out and cut pieces off, bringing them in a little at a time, and the kitchen would become a production facility with my mother wrapping everything in freezer paper and wrapping what it was on the outside.  All the scrap pieces would be thrown to the dogs and be scattered throughout the yard for the next couple months.

At one point my mother decided to even try tanning the hide of one of the deer pelts.  She scraped as much as she could off the back of the hide and then set the hide in the basement covered in salt.  I’m fairly certain it was right after we visited a festival and my brother and I each got sheepskin pelts (died in funny colors).  They were so soft and warm, she wanted to try herself.


My aunt needed shells to use to help her control her snake problem, which led to the story of my grandfather and a mouse…  Growing up we also had a lot of mice.  It was so bad I got to recognize the smell of decaying mouse lost somewhere near my room and would try to burn a candle at night to mask the smell.  We had stories about my mother cleaning and throwing toys into a toy box in the dark, feeling something odd only to find it was a dead mouse the next day.  Picking up dresses to hang, shaking them and having the feel of little paws going up inside her pants leg – she came out of those pants really fast.

We also had stories about the time my brother put a mouse in an empty hamster cage in my room and just waited for me to find it.  He also came into my room and nailed one to the wall with a dart from a dart gun at one point.  Hitting a moving mouse was a tradition though!  The story of my grandfather sitting with a 22 waiting at the dining room table for a mouse that he knew usually cut through the room is well known.  He waited it out until the mouse came around the corner and he shot it.  We just had the discussion about whether the hole is probably still in the floor or not.

While up at my mother’s I still like to sleep with television on, not for the television itself, but to drawn out any noise of gnawing.  I really dislike seeing the evidence of where the mice have been all over.


While telling stories, the subject of the power going out for more than 2 weeks at a time had to come up.  I remember best the year that Headless Horsemen was to be The Wonderful World of Disney – a special every weekend.  My brother and I were so excited to see it, and there weren’t recorders, the internet, even DVDs back then (in the 70s).  The power went out, and stayed out.  In the country we had no water when we had no power.  At that point our house didn’t have a wood burning stove yet either, so just a fireplace.   After a few days, my dad worked out how to run a tractor and use it to power a couple things like the well.  – Not in time to see the show though.  I do remember us having a little orange record player that ran on batteries, so that was our amusement.  We also always had lots of kerosene lamps, still do.  So the kerosene lamps served as light..

The stories of the fireplace and all the times we used it, led to the story of smoldering the boards around the fireplace.  My father had always used green wood, but this one year he had dried dead wood.  It burned a LOT hotter.  My mother had a huge fire going, and we ended up with the steel plate in front of the fireplace red hot.  The steel plate charred the wood around the front of the fireplace and caused smoke to come out the cold air ducts. Not having a clue where the fire was, my dad was pouring water everywhere.  They did figure out the cause of the smoke and get everything cooled off and put out before the fire department showed up, but the firemen had to all come in and traipse through to see it themselves.  There had been a storm going on, so getting out to us, had also meant that fire trucks had all run off the road into the ditches, slid everywhere and the firemen were drenched.   The fireplace wood is probably still charred under the front of the fireplace.  My brother has now converted the fireplace itself to gas, so it isn’t likely to happen again.

The Past

Telling the stories is great, and getting together the whole family at the holidays allows up to tell a story that leads to another.  I love the idea of getting family together and recording the stories.  Besides having stories recorded I also like scanning all the pictures and trying to get my whole family to name everyone in the pictures.  The hard part is finding a way to record the names to go with each picture so that you can identify who each person is.

In the Pond

Some of the first things we really noticed about my father as he developed dementia was his lapses in judgement. With a farm this resulted in more broken equipment… A wagon accidently pushed into a pond. The oil pan cover on a bulldozer being forgotten. We even found at one point that my father had thrown away the smoke alarms while my mother was out. We narrowed it down to while my mom was out and my dad had made himself something to eat. He had mentioned that the food was so burnt that the dogs wouldn’t even eat it. Apparently he had taken down the smoke alarms and carried them out to dispose of them. It wasn’t until my mother had a slight kitchen mishap weeks later that we noticed the alarms didn’t go off… upon a search, we noticed they were completely missing.

The toughest to correct was the wagon in the pond. Someone had to get into the pond and attach onto the wagon and then the wagon had to be drug out of the pond. It ended up taking a few years to get it out! The bulldozer though may still be needing repairs.

After the last farming season – the season of a lot of needed repairs…. my dad began to have strokes. Something I feel that I need to keep an eye out for in my future. I already know that on blood tests/lab work that odd test that shows the size of the red blood cells gives a result showing mine are a little large… I’m not really sure what that means, but I’m guessing that means I’m at a higher risk of stroke. My dad always had issues with clotting – he clotted easy and honestly with very little foreshadowing I already see my future coming… Add to that the fact that I know I have small veins (They say drink lots of water before lab work, hello, that just means I’m going to be in the bathroom a million times between now and bedtime and probably even have to stop to go on the way home – and the way into the lab)

Looking up items to reduce my risk of stroke, I’ve found:

  1. Start drinking
  2. Control Blood Pressure (mines already fine)
  3. Watch your weight (um that’s not feasible….  I do everything I can and nothing helps)
  4. Cholesterol (mine’s already fine)
  5. Exercise (does going up and down stairs count?)
  6. smoking (never have…)
  7. eat chocolate (does white chocolate count?)
  8. sleep (must add this to my calendar)
  9. limit red meat (we already do, but we need some for iron – though we eat a lot of other things with iron)
  10. Fiber (that could be good to add)
  11. drink tea (I need to find one that doesn’t make me jittery)
  12. drink water (I try)

Looking through my list of ways to reduce my list, I think I’m doing pretty good.  We have also worked to reduce our fried foods, reduce our fats, and we mostly eat healthy.  That tends  to break down a little when my husband finds any snacks, when my mom visits, or when we are up in Illinois.