Welcome to the Putnam County Museum
Grandma Annie Clodfelter's Busy Days
Told by Malcolm Romine
Before beginning to talk about Grandma’s work schedule, some background information is needed. Anna Ardell Carrington was born April 14, 1862. Her husband Jackson Taylor Clodfelter was born July 6, 1850 and they were married September 16, 1883. Grandpa had only recently purchased the brick house, built in 1828, located near the north bank of the Raccoon Creek about 1 mile upstream from Portland Mills. This is the home in which the new family set up housekeeping. The house was known in the Clodfelter family as the “Old Brick.”
When my grandma Annie was married, she immediately became a mother to Jack Clodfelter’s two young daughters from his first marriage; Ella age 4 ½, and Daisy age 3 ½. Their mother had died March 3, 1880 soon after the birth of her second baby. Jack and Annie then had ten children born from August 1884 to January 26, 1907.
Grandma had the task of caring for and nurturing the babies and children. When she was married in 1883, it is almost unimaginable to realize what was not available to her as she worked on all her many household chores. A simple thing like safety pins were not available to her until the late 1880’s. How would you like to pin a diaper with straight pins rather than safety pins? Clothespins had just become available when grandma was married. She could hang clothes on the line to dry and not worry about the wind blowing them away.
Grandma Annie and two of her 32 grandchildren
Regarding clothes, ready-made clothing was not available for her to purchase until several years after she was married…I believe it was the late 1890’s. For years grandma had to make everything; the boy’s pants, shirts, and underwear, and all the girl’s clothes…all by hand. Lucky for her, sewing machines were available.
Eventually, catalogs became available and that was like a dream come true for grandma as all kinds of clothing could be purchased. But she continued to sew most of the family’s clothing except everybody’s underwear. In her later years, grandma purchased men’s overalls and blue work shirts for the boys to wear every day, but she continued to make their good shirts.
How about doing the laundry and ironing for the 12 children and her husband, and the laundry had to be done twice a week most of the time. First, think of all the diapers grandma had to wash, all by hand on a washboard, and then hanging them on the line to dry.
I’ve been told that was when the girls wore a lot of petticoats. No washing machines were available, and she did all the washing on the washboard…for 12 children plus she and her husband. In her later years, she did get a washing machine, but it still required washing by hand. Wash ‘n dry clothes were not even a dream at that time. The clothes all had to be ironed with irons heated on the stove or in the fireplace. Furthermore, the irons had to be wiped off to keep from getting black soot on what was being ironed. Even the window curtains had to be ironed frequently.
Throughout her married life much of grandma’s time was spent in food preparation; getting the food to prepare and getting it prepared for the family of twelve children. Their children have all commented about how much company the Clodfelter family normally had through the years; relatives visiting, and the children often had their young friends staying overnight. This all added to the time grandma Annie spent in food preparation.
Grandma’s day started by making breakfast for the large family and however many had stayed overnight, starting with building a fire in the kitchen stove and then brewing coffee and making biscuits from scratch, gravy, eggs, and fried ham or bacon. There was always jelly on the table to eat with the biscuits. It was always a big breakfast. Afterwards, lunch buckets had to be prepared for the children going to school, many years there would be as many as six lunch buckets every day. A big meal was prepared for noon (dinner) and another big meal at night (supper), and almost always a dessert. Naturally, there were all the dirty dishes, silverware, pots and pans waiting to be washed.
Realistically, getting the food to prepare and getting it prepared was pretty much the center of her existence. The first thing in the spring was the greens. As soon as it commenced to be “green-up time,” the entire family would have greens.
Next, it was time to put the garden in and get the vegetables growing. Then the strawberries would be ready to pick. She made strawberry jam and canned it. Grandma made so much jelly and jam that grandpa would buy sugar by the barrel. She didn’t make jelly in glasses, she made it in gallon crocks. Then she stored them one on top of the other in the cellar. When she counted, she didn’t count the crocks of jelly, but the rows of one on top of each other as high as she could reach up to put them. Apple butter was made in a huge copper kettle, and grandma always dried a lot of apples, peaches, corn, and green beans.
Next, it was cherry time. The boys especially liked cherry pie and enough cherries were canned that grandma made cherry pie all winter. Then it was time for the berries—raspberries and blackberries. Annie and her children would pick berries and get some chiggers in the process. Fresh raspberry and blackberry cobbler were always made followed by gooseberry, rhubarb, and currant cobbler. While the berries were still being picked, early apples would be ripe and ready for apple cobbler, applesauce, and fried apples. Grandma would can a huge number of jars of applesauce. Grandpa had a variety of apples that ripened at different times of the year so fresh apples were available until October. The family also had pears and grapes. In the early 1900’s Purdue sent their home economic staff and students out to show women how to cold pack meat, green beans, and such. Before that, things had to be dried. However, she continued to dry apples, peaches, green beans, and corn as long as there were kids at home, which was until 1924.
In the fall, she and her sisters made huge quantities of apple butter and pumpkin butter in a huge copper kettle sitting on a tripod with a fire under it. About this time Grandma would be canning pickles. As one would expect, it was always a huge number. By the time Fall was coming to an end Grandma had prepared crocks and crocks of apple jelly, blackberry jelly, red plum and blue plum jelly. Enough to last the family through the winter.
Everything had to be baked. Bread was not sold in the Portland Mills store until after 1910. Grandma baked light bread, biscuits, donuts, and a huge number of pies, cake, and cookies…all in huge numbers. As each of Grandma’s girls became old enough, they would bake the cakes. Imagine the large amount of flour that was used every week.
A regular job was churning. One can only consider how much butter was consumed by this family every week. Butter was eaten at every meal and used in all of the baking and practically all of the food preparation. Grandma had one of those large, old, wooden churns with a dasher on it. In the summertime, Grandma would go out in the yard and sit under a shade tree and rest and churn.
Traditional Christmas Dinner
My mother and Aunt Josephine have commented many times about a certain few things Grandma Annie always prepared for Christmas dinner. The items that had become traditional were mainly desserts. Grandma (and in later years the girls) always baked a fruit cake. Other desserts for Christmas were a large date pudding plus pies or cookies—proof the Clodfelters had a sweet tooth. Oyster stew was another traditional item always served for Christmas. That was the time when oysters were not scarce. Of course, dinner always included at least two meats, baked ham and turkey or chicken, a variety of vegetables, and fresh baked biscuits.
Like many farm women, Grandma had a source for some “extra money.” She sold cream. Schlosser’s Milk Co. had a station in Russellville. In her time the Schlosser man came around twice a week in a carriage to pick up the cream held in cream cans furnished by Schlossers. They tagged the can with her name and sent it to Indianapolis by rail. When he came back the next time, he brought the check for his last pick-up. Grandma saved most of her cream checks from Schlossers in order to pay for the large quantity of clothing material she used to make clothes for her family.
When the peddler wagon from the Morton or the Russellville store came by, Grandma would pay the bill by trading a few chickens to the peddler. The peddler wagon had yard goods, thread, trimmings, groceries, and some of about everything that was in the store.