Cora and Charley’s Courting Days

Cora McCauley Palmer’s Memoirs (written for her son, Charles) continue:

“The fall your father was 20 (in 1896), he bought 40 acres of land from your grandfather just about a mile south of Oakland Church. It joined the 40 acres your Uncle Edney had bought from him. It had no house on it, so he lived with Edney and Stella. He had his mare that your grandfather had given him, a sow, and pigs. He had bought another horse, so he had a team to tend his crops with. He came home real often when it rained because he couldn’t work outside. So, one afternoon he came through the kitchen where I was and, without saying a word, just pitched a little folded piece of paper at me. It landed on the back of the stove. ‘Course I grabbed it real quick and dropped it down the front of my dress ’til I could get away to my room to see what it was. There was no one in the kitchen at the time, and I am sure he knew the coast was clear, or he would not have taken a chance. That was in January 1897. So we kept up our ‘clandestine’ affair for about three months. We never said a word to anyone about it, just went on as usual whenever he came over. But one day, your grandmother was looking in my trunk for something and picked up a cap which I had hidden my little ‘billet-douxs’ in, and they tumbled out, of course. She took them to your grandfather to read (I was in school at the time). . . . By that time, I had promised to marry your father-to-be in the fall.

” . . . we had a nice courtship. Charley had the privilege of calling on me every Sunday afternoon from two ’til five o’clock!!! But, of course, he was there several times during the week and would get in a few words
of endearment that helped us a lot.

“We had planned to elope to ‘The Indian Territory’ (as it was then known; it’s Oklahoma now) to get married, as we were not sure if my father would consent to my marriage. He (George T. McCauley) was living at Harg at the time taking care of the ‘toll gate’ from Columbia to Fulton. So I wrote to him to come up one Sunday to see me. He came, and Charlie (Cora spelled it ‘Charley’ also) asked him for me. But when he came to talk to me, he said, ‘Cora, Cora, what will your grandma say?’ (‘Grandma’ was his mother, Margaret McCauley.) He gave us his blessing, and we were happy.

“The summer passed quickly. We went to Sunday School every Sunday, and Charley would ride home with me then. . . . we set our wedding date for September 1, 1897, at three o’clock at your grandparent’s home north of Columbia. (Cora was 13 and Charlie 20)”

Cora at the Palmer’s (May 1895 – September 1897) 3

Cora McCauley Palmer’s Memoirs (written for her son, Charles) continue:

“The post office was at Hinton (Missouri) in the general store which carried everything in the line of dry goods by yard, shoes, gloves, harness, ladies cotton stockings, mens work sox, groceries, nails — in fact, most anything you wanted, they carried it. There was no ‘ready-to-wear’ clothing — only in Columbia then. There was a blacksmith shop, two churches, and about four or five residences there then. People would get their mail once a week and once in a great while, someone would order a box of goods of some kind from the city — St. Louis or Kansas City or maybe Chicago. When it came, it was a ‘red-letter’ day for the one who received it.

“In the month of December, your grandfather (William Perry Palmer) would butcher ten fat hogs for the family use. He always said one for company and one each for every member of the family. The next day after butchering, your grandfather salted the meat and cooked the ‘scraps’ (the head, feet, liver, etc.) in a big iron kettle out in the yard and made hog head cheese. Then they put part of the sausage in sacks and fried part of it and stored it in gallon stone jars and covered it with the fresh lard. It would keep until warm weather real good for in those days no one ever heard of canning fresh meat. The salted meat would be put in flour sacks after it had been in salt for about six weeks. Sometimes they would smoke it with hickory chips ’til it was nice and brown. They they would put the ham and shoulders in the sacks to protect them from insects. They usually had 40 to 50 gallons of lard and used it all, for it took a lot of food of all kinds to keep the family going.

“It was really a ‘red-letter’ day for us children when your grandparents went to Columbia. They would load up the spring wagon with whatever they had to sell. They dug parsnips and sold ’em for ten cents per bushel, roasting ears for ten cents per dozen — just anything they could swap for something they couldn’t raise. They always brought something back for each one of us.

“Your grandfather always raised a big watermelon patch. He sold some of them also, but he had all the family could use first. They always had lots of company to eat watermelon. He would bring them from the patch early in the morning and call for all to meet at the ‘stand’ (meaning a big round stand built around a large shade tree in the front). We always ate the melons there, and the boys would come whooping and jumping from everywhere. He would see that all were present before he started passing out the big juicy slices. Sometimes I wouldn’t be through with the dishes when he called, but he always waited ’til I was there. The little boys called ’em ‘slashes’ instead of ‘slices.’ They would say, ‘Pa, hurry and cut my slash.’ They were wonderful days.”

Cora at the Palmer’s (May 1895 – September 1897) 2

Her Memoirs (written for her son, Charles) continue:

“The boys always had a new colt to ‘break’ each spring. Your grandfather (William Perry Palmer) kept some brood mares, so there was several new colts each spring. They picked the ones they wanted to ride. Ezra (about age 11, same age as Cora) had a mule he broke to ride, and he sure thought a lot of that mule. He rode her to church and wherever he went. When each boy was 19, he selected the horse he wanted for his own, as your grandfather gave them a horse or mare–whichever they chose — a new saddle and bridle. They started out for themselves. Their most famous brood mare was Old Doll. She raised 22 colts. Your dad (Charley) had one of her colts named Bird. She was such a rouge — would jump any fence she could get her head over. Old Doll’s tenth colt was the one I rode the most. ‘Ten’ was a real pretty bay color, always fat and slick, and a real stepper. Sunday mornings, your grandad would say, ‘boys, one of you saddle Ten for Cora to ride.’ Ezra would make some smart comment on our way to Sunday School about me getting Ten to ride while he rode a mule.

“While I made my home with them, I attended Conley School. My first teacher was a Mr. Ernest Brown, a very nice man and a good teacher. We had about 80 pupils enrolled, but not a very good daily attendance. There was a lot of McGee’s, Gaither’s, Irwin’s, Gates, and a lot of Palmer’s, as your grandparents were both Palmer’s, but no relation as your grandad’s folks came to Missouri from Kentucky and grandma’s from Virginia.

“The next year my teacher was Mr. Ben Goslin, a good and kind gentleman. I always liked to attend school but didn’t get to go as much as I wanted to — partly because I married so young and because my folks just didn’t send me as part of the time I lived too far away from school. I liked reading and spelling best of all, but liked history of all kinds, and I still like to read. I don’t have very much education, but I have read a great deal over the years . . . have tried to train my memory to get the most out of anything I have read.

“Your uncles never liked to attend school — would find all sort of excuses to stay home. Once, Rufus (about age 14) tried to burn the school house down by taking some matches from home and asking to be excused during ‘books.’ He crawled under the school house and tried to start a fire — used all his matches, but it didn’t ‘go.’ He didn’t try that again as someone told on him, and he had to take a spanking from the teacher and his father.” . . . Charley and Edney had more education than any of the boys. They liked school and tried to learn. Your dad always liked math and took writing lessons, too — ald also singing and music lessons.

Aunt Mary, as I was taught to call her (Mary Palmer Palmer), was a wonderful person. Though she could not read or write, she wanted their children to have an education and be good, honest, upright citizens.”

Cora at the Palmer’s (May 1895 – September 1897) 1

Cora McCauley Palmer’s Memoirs (written for her son, Charles) continue:

Cora is age 11 living with the Palmer’s in May 1895.
“In the fall, we would make sorghum molasses, as they always raised a patch of cane. Then they made apple butter with the sorghum — also pumpkin butter, using the sorghum instead of sugar. They were very thrifty and tried to produce as much of their food as they could, sell the surplus, and buy what they could not produce — such as sugar. coffee, salt, soda, baking powder, rice, etc. For their cereal, they ground wheat in the coffee mill, which is very good cooked like rolled oats, only it takes longer to cook.

In the spring, they made maple syrup as they had a ‘sugar orchard’ — they were called then — of about 100 trees. They sold the syrup at $1.00 per gallon, and they also made maple sugar and sold it for 50 cents per pound. They kept about 20 gallons of the syrup to use themselves and everyone really ‘sopped’ up the biscuits in the ‘lasses,’ as they called it. I would bake about 40 biscuits for breakfast, as we only had the syrup at that meal.

For his large family, your grandfather (William Perry Palmer) would buy flour by the barrel, also sugar. They bought green coffee by the 50 pound bag. Your grandmother (Mary Palmer) would roast it in the ove — in big pans — it would have to be stirred often during the roasting time. She would then pour the white of an egg over the hot browned coffee berries, stirring ’til it was coated all over with the egg white. Then it was cooled and stored in jars ready for use — they would grind just enough for each meal.

They always had their corn ground for the cornbread. Your grandfather would select the big ears of white corn (for no one here in Boone county grew anything but white corn). The boys would shell it–by hand, of course–about a bushel at a time. Then one of the boys would take the sack of corn on a horse to Gallup’s Mill, just east of Hinton on Rocky Fork Creek. It was powered at first by a water wheel, but later it was run by a steam engine. In later years, they had a grist mill at Brown’s Station on the Wabsh Railroad which was powered by steam”