Friday, December 28, 2007

A Biography of Mrs. W. H. Keen

[Written by Alice Muriel Johnson Keen, my great grandmother]

I was born May 4, 1892 in Madison, Nebraska. My father was Thomas Merril Johnson, my mother was Hattie Ellen Duggan [pictured below]. My father had lost his first wife, Kate, who had borne his first four children, namely William, Frank, Nettie and Charles.

He married my mother who was a tall girl for her 14 1/2 years of age and they lived in Madison, Nebraska. They had four small daughters when they decided to come west to Blaine, Washington. They came west in Spring of 1890 but didn't like the rainy weather - real coastal rains - every day. He was a carpenter by trade but stayed for the summer.

An epidemic of scarlet fever broke out and my father and mother packed up and took the train for the east - with their four little girls - the two youngest took sick on the train and they all had to get off the train at Wyoming where Julia died - then they boarded the train again and went on their way back to Nebraska, settling in Madison this time - Nellie having died in the fall with scarlet fever some three or four weeks after Julia had died.

They built a new home in Madison and lived in Madison where another little girl was born and named for my father's mother Lorette on December 7, 1890. Relatives who had taken my father's four children by Kate didn't want to give them up so it was easier for Mother to care for her four but how they missed Julia and Nellie. Then on May 4, 1892 I was born, being the sixth daughter in the family.

When I was two years old we moved to Rock Falls, Illinois where my only brother Napoleon Bonaparte was born May 31, 1894. There they bought two lots and built another home and Daddie was a contractor. We lived two blocks from my father's sister, Aunt Gay and Uncle Thome. He later was the Mayor of the town, a wonderful fellow. My sister Annie Marie was born April 12, 1896; my sister Hattie Quintilla was born April 13, 1898.

Father and Mother had trouble over his drinking and separated that summer. In November we sold the home and left Illinois for Washington.

What an adventure! My oldest sister Myra had a good job and stayed in Illinois but Mother took the other six of us and left to visit my great grandfather [Adam Hetrick] who had left the family farm in Nebraska and had gone to Kalispell, Montana and established himself on a 320-acre fruit farm. It had a huge irrigation system. Grandpa had invited Mother to bring her family to come and make her home with him but he had married again after his first wife died and the new grandma had grandchildren of her own and we weren't exactly welcome. How distressing it must have been for Mother.

No comments:

Post a Comment