The Poetry of Elsie Strawn Armstrong
"SKETCHES OF MY LIFE"
Pages 8-13

Transcribed and Donated by Leslie Howard Strawn


CHAPTER SEVENTEENTH

And when the war was over

And all of us got home,

From different points collected,

And all my sons did come

When our business did turn out so

We all at home could get,

Then we were glad and thankful,

And a very happy set.

And then we all most cheerfully

Did undertake our labors,

But still the Pottawatamies

Were among our nearest neighbors.

And when our house was finished,

That fall when we got home,

Major Campbell and his wife

And another lady come.

He walked about and looked,

Went from one room to another

And said it was fell finished,

“Twas large, and nice and clever.”

And said, “Well, boys, you have got now

The best house in the County,

If you go on as you’ve begun

You are sure to have the bounty.”

That house is thirty-six feet long,

It is twenty feet wide,

Two seven-foot sheds preserve the walls,

A shed on either side.

It has had three new roofs,

And has had two new floors,

A chimney at each end it has,

And it has three out doors.

It was built in thirty-one,

Stands there, looks up, so bold,

In tolerable keeping,

And a family still doth hold.

In eighteen months we moved six times,

No wonder we were tired.

To have a chance to be at home

We were very much admired.

We had to move about so long

It made our love for home more strong.

The for us to be at home

It seemed so nice and good,

We had some floor at either door

To keep us from the mud.

CHAPTER EIGHTEENTH

We had more than three hundred chickens

When we were driven away,

And more hens that we setting

The fifteenth day of May.

But the troops took all my poultry,

Except it was one hen,

And I took that away, or

They would have had that hen.

It was the tenth of August

When the most of us got home,

But were badly scattered,

Three of my sons were gone.

Next day we did but little

But fix the things around,

And see how the fields had prospered,

And what might yet be found.

We found our tools were missing,

And we still did meet the losses,

We thought the troops took our oats,

Perhaps to feed their horses.

Axes nor iron wedges

Neither troops nor Indians ever took,

But were taken by white Indians,

Who after plunder, there did look.

And we, for the seed oats,

Paid eighty-seven cents a bushel,

It was standing on the left,

And covered in a barrel.

They from the loft took clothing,

Left us neither bag nor sack,

Perhaps they needed them

The oats away to pack.

But of those new shirts and pants,

I confess I felt the loss,

I spun and wove and made them,

And to me it was a cross.

For they were the best of homespun,

Flax chained and cotton filling,

And for us to lose them so

I did not quite seem willing.

I was half sick with toothache,

And washing that sad day,

That we did get the warning

That we must go away.

They had worn their clothes four days,

But I thought they’d best be clean,

So they threw them on the left,

‘Twas the last of them we seen.

Some of the wash I’d just hung out

More on the fire a scalding,

And some was left in the tub,

And then to leave was galling.

Then I gathered my wet clothes

And did the best I could,

And forgot them on the left

Or taken them I would.

We had about one hundred bushels

Of corn that did get sound,

And pumpkins, beans and melons,

And other things around.

And cabbage and potatoes

When we came home we found,

And onions, beets and parsnips,

A sticking in the ground.

One son came home next day,

And they went to making hay

And I went at the sewing

To prepare for the winter day.

And still they kept a mowing,

And saving of the hay,

Till they had twenty-four fine stacks

To last till the next May.

On the sixth day of April

Four fine cattle they found dead,

That were stuck along the slough

For the want of hay, they said.

I rode away for wool,

I took it in the fleece,

I washed and dried and picked it,

And then applied the grease.

I carded and I spun it,

And the half I carried back,

That none of my little sons

Might socks or mittens lack.

My son George would sometimes card

Till it was late at night,

And I would spin the rolls,

And he’d keep up the light.

We sat by a log fire,

Where I could see to knit,

A carding and a spinning

Till eleven o’clock we’d sit.

And then for double mittens

A dollar I did get,

And I thought that was encouraging

For me to faithful knit.

Seventy-five cents a pair

For sock was what I got,

And I kept myself knitting

All the fall, and tired not.

Besides my other work

I knit more that twenty pair,

That I sold and gave for things

That I wanted then and there.

My sons then broke six acres

To sow a little wheat,

That they might have their seed

And also bread to eat.

Then they went off with a team,

To build a home upon each claim,

For each one to have a farm

It seemed to be their aim.

And I got in the garden sauce,

Dug the potatoes too,

With some help from little craft

That could but little do.

And we gathered all the beans

And thrashed them clean and good,

And that was adding something

To our little stock of food.

And I saved three barrels of pickles,

And two barrels I did sell,

And every little helps

When things are going well.

We all enjoyed good health,

And we worked with all our might,

We worked well all the day

And sometimes part of the night.

Then my children felt encouraged

To work hard all the day,

And as soon as it was light

Still they were under way.

I hired men to help them

To make some thousand rails,

And they kept themselves well to it,

And in that they did not fail.

Some of them chopping logs,

And others hauling out,

And so they kept to work

And put themselves about.

At the first break of winter,

Down on the bottom there,

They went and made the sugar

That lasted all the year.

And then they made molasses

We all liked very well,

We all thought it was better

Than they, the merchants, did us sell.

My energetic little sons,

Did fence and break the sod,

And we were blessed and prospered

And trusted in our God.

They broke one hundred acres

In the year of thirty-three,

And planted it in corn,

And fenced it round, you see.

Then they broke forty more,

On the north side of the road,

And in the month of September

On that ground, wheat they sowed.

Then they went away two miles,

And broke thirty-five for John,

And that they sowed for wheat,

It was for my eldest son.

We had more than forty oxen

And but three prairie plows,

A fine set of horses,

And a good lot of cows.

It was then I made the butter,

And then I made the cheese,

My health was very good,

And I worked at my ease.

I raised lots of garden,

And I felt myself at home,

When my children were all with me,

The third year I come.

Our freedom was complete

After we all got here,

Our liberty was sweet,

And no one to make us fear.

And then on Sabbath morning

We off to church could ride,

On six well-rigged fine horses

We traveled side by side.

We were quite a little flock,

Although not but a few,

And in this settled country

We helped to fill a pew. (Or a flat rail!)

O, may I be enabled

In the Lord to put my trust,

May I be ever thankful,

And be humbled in the dust.

For such the Lord has promised

By his grace he will assist,

But the haughty and proud

He has said He will resist.

When my little sons began to marry,

And scattered off from me,

It was then I did feel lonesome,

And I wanted them to see.

When the oldest sons were married,

They went off to their farms,

And the youngest ones were with me,

And they thought it was no harm.

My eighth son I buried

Before that I came here,

In the state of Ohio,

When he was in his fourth year.

And eight I reared to manhood,

And I brought to Illinois

A pleasant and a lively set

Of active little boys.

But death took my fifth son

In his twenty-third year,

And O, how hard it was to part

With one that was so dear.

And in the year of fifty

Death did visit us again,

In the month of November,

And two of my sons were slain.

One died in California,

And the other died at home,

And O, what sorrow pierced my heart

And filled my life with gloom.

One of them left two daughters,

And the other left two sons,

And to me they were most precious

And beloved little ones.

Of all that brother band now

I have only five,

And the ninth in California

If he is still alive.

How sweet the recollection

When my children were about me

Then I felt I had protection,

And no one dared to flout me.

My wishes and my orders

They prided to obey,

And they enforced my regulations

On the household night and day.

The few that now are left

Come to see me now and then,

I am always glad to see them

If they come, no matter when.

They are now, and always were,

My greatest earthly treasure,

To grasp their hands and see them

Is my greatest earthly pleasure.

Now I am old and feeble

And my eyes are very sore,

My age is over seventy

And more than two years more.

My days are nearly ended,

O! May the Lord prepare

Me for some humble mansion

In that bright city fair.

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