This page is dedicated to my great grandmother's niece, Vivian "Bernice" (Brittingham) Bara. I never knew Bereniece (or Bernice) until about 1991, when I began to seriously research my family tree. Despite her living just 10 miles or less from my home, we never crossed paths until that point. That is when your research becomes especially special. Thanks to her, I have a great structure of genealogy and through my own research, I have found some additional information and am adding to this family all the time. Bereniece's pages & pages of genealogy was a tremendous start for me. She was a great inspiration & I dedicate this page to her memoirs she shared with me. Sadly, Bereniece passed away several years back. (Abt. 1994) The original memoirs are 9 stapled pages with a tenth page by Bernice's daughter, Johnette, as a testimony to her mother's stregnth. The original memoirs were typed by Johnette for her mother, exactly as her mother had written it. Anyone who would like to share their memories of Vivian "Bernice" are more than welcome to here. Just e-mail me!
544 N. 1981st Rd.
Tonica, IL 61370
My father (Walter BRITTINGHAM) was a carpenter and a man of many trades. When he could find no work as a carpenter; he harvested wheat, went on cattle drives, worked as a shoe repairman, a blacksmith (not only shoeing horses), as well as creating many tools & kitchen utensils in his own workshop. He was a foreman for the Hawkeye Cement Company in Des Moines, IA & also at the Marquette Cement Company in Oglesby, Illinois. He worked in a gun powder plant making bullets & shells and helped farmers butcher hogs & beef. He also worked on a dredge boat. As a carpenter, some of the major building jobs he worked on in Illinois were the Pillsbury Mills in Springfield, the Salem Shoe Factory in Salem, a hotel in Bluford, & Vogels Airport Hangers on Route 51 north of Peru. He also put the flooring in the Wrighley Building in Chicago as well building many houses & farms. My mother was the daughter of a Kansas wheat & cattle rancher (Ida May BELLAMY Brittingham). She was born & raised on the "Broken-B-Ranch" just outside of Truesdale. She was the daughter of George David BELLAMY & Margaret Lucinda SNOOK. Mother was a school teacher & taught for 2 years at the Truesdale Grade School before her marriage. I believe in those early years of the 20th century, one only had to have a teaching certificate. You could take a state test & get one. Mother had two years of high school. The ranch got the name "Broken-B" because the Rattle Snake River cut through the ranch almost in the center. The south side of the river was a cattle ranch. Here, my grandfather, George D. Bellamy, had his first salt tables which was a place to put salt blocks for the cattle. He put them on these tables about 2 feet high & twenty feet long to keep the salt dry so the salt would not wash away. Grandfather had the feeder racks for winter. There were many tree stands & ravines & plenty of arroyos (?) to protect the cattle in the winter months. My father met my mother in July of 1910, during the summer wheat harvest. My father signed on as a teamster. He knew how to drive 32 head of horses. It took this many horses to pull the heavy threshing machine. The teams were 4 horses across & 8 horses long. My grandfather asked my dad to return in late November for the winter harvest & get all the farm machinery repaired, mend the harnesses,& repair any & all farm buildings. Dad lived in the bunk house. On the south side of the River was the ranch house & bunk house for the hired hands. The wheat house had a fenced in pasture, milk cows, turkeys, geese, chickens & two outhouses- one for the family & one for the hired hands. There was a cook house, a wash house, barns and cribs & many Cottonwood trees. The teams were kept in a barn & the cows in a cow barn. Grandmother (Margaret Lucinda SNOOK) had a large garden & a large orchard. She also raised hogs, turkeys, ducks, & geese. My mother was pregnant when my father met her. She had been dating a high school teacher named Kyle SPOONER for two years. When he was told by my mother that she was with child, he left town. My sister, Ruby, was born in January 1911. In April, Kyle came back for her but my mother would not see him. However, she did let her sisters show him the baby and he cried when he saw little Ruby. My father carved a cradle of walnut & made a treasure chest for my mother for Christmas of 1910. He burned a heart in the wood of the chest & etched "Ida May" into the center of the heart. The night Ruby was born, my father & my mother's brother, John BELLAMY, went for the midwife. Uncle John & my father took the sledge to get the midwife. The snow was too deep to use the light sleigh. After the baby was born, my father asked to see my mother & when he saw the baby, he said she looked like a "red ruby". He went to town & bought her a red velvet cape & coat. Mother used the cradle for eight of her children. (Years later, it was washed away in the flood in Iowa, as was the chest.) On July 3, 1911, one year after they met, my mother & father were married on the Bellamy Ranch. My parents made two trips to Missouri. The first one was in 1912 when they bought a house in Ava, Missouri. They traveled there by covered wagon. They stopped off in Indiana & picked up father's cousin, Sara, and her new husband, Tommy VINCENT. They also picked up Uncle Marion & took him to Missouri, too. They would stop at school houses along the way. There were water & outhouses there. They would leave before the teachers & pupils got there. Mom & Dad did the cooking on an iron grate that Dad made in the blacksmith shop in Kansas before they moved to Missouri. At mealtime, Dad would build a fire under the grate & Mom would fry ham & eggs & such & make coffee. My brother, George, was born there, in Ava, January 1914. Mother's parents were divorced in 1915 & Mother & Dad returned to Kansas to help Grandmother get straightened around. They left cousins Sarah & Tommy VINCENT in Missouri to take care of the farm & animals. My sister, Rose, was born in Kansas in November, 1915. In 1916 my parents returned to Missouri. In 1915 my father & Uncle Marion went back to Indiana for their father's funeral (Rev. Phelix -later changed to Felix- Falls BRITTINGHAM). That was the last time the Felix Falls BRITTINGHAM family all got together. Uncle Marion returned to Missouri with my dad. My mother was very fond of him, she always spoke well of him & said he was a godsend. He was a workoholic like Mom & Dad. Mother said he was good with the children & always saw that the animals were fed, the wood box filled & the water brought in. He helped Mother with her garden & the milking. My father & my brother, George, never milked a cow. Mother promised Uncle Marion she would name the next baby for him. He was disappointed to find out it was a girl but Mom named her Marion anyway. A teacher in Des Moines, Iowa made her spell it with an "a" instead of an "o". Uncle Marion joined the service but I have no record of when or which branch. While my parents were in Kansas, mother's Aunt Ida and Aunt Bessie and their husbands and Aunt Ida's son, Earnest, came to visit. Mother delivered a baby girl for Aunt Bessie on leap year day, February 29th. Mother and Dad returned again to Kansas in 1918. I, Vivian Bernice, was born there on October 20, 1919. My sister, Birdie, was born in 1921. On October 20, 1922, we left Kansas and moved to Iowa. The second time Aunt Ida and Aunt Bessie came to visit in Kansas, Aunt Ida had 4 children & Aunt Bessie had one. They brought Aunt Ida's brother-in-law along, Sherman STARKEY. He later married my mother's youngest sister, Esther BELLAMY. They were on their way to California to visit Uncle Roy and his wife Dora Belle, and were just a few miles from my dad's house when their car broke down. My mother told them they would have to get a place of their own to live. By this time Mom and Dad had seven children, Aunt Ida had four & Aunt Bessie had one. There just wasn't enough room in Mother's house for everyone. Aunt Ida and Aunt Bessie had to wait so long for the part for their car, they did not have enough money to go to California so they returned to Indiana. My father had heard from a friend in Des Moines, Iowa, that they needed a foreman at the Hawkeye Cement Company, so he sent in an application and was hired. Dad got Uncle Monroe a job there, too, but he worked just one day there. Monroe's job there was sewing the sacks shut. He did not have to lift anything, the sacks just came down a conveyer, but he refused to go back after the first day. Dad got several jobs for Monroe but he never lasted very long on any of them. "Work" & Uncle Monroe were strangers to one another. As far as I know, the last time he did anything to support himself was in Truesdale, Kansas. He opened a shop and sold coffee, homemade soup, sandwiches & pies. There was only one other place to eat in town and that was a hotel. My dad said it was a good business but Uncle Monroe started a gambling hall and sold moonshine. The sheriff closed him down & he was lucky he didn't go to jail. When we left Kansas, Uncle Monroe moved with us & stayed for about nine years, only leaving once. In Valley Junction, Iowa, the first house we lived in was the "foreman's" house, two-stories and rent free. My dad went to see the Children's Christmas play at school and discovered that negroes were in the school also. Dad did not want his children going to school with negroes so right after Christmas, we moved to the house by the river. Living there, he was able to send us to Frisbe School in Des Moines where only white children attended. We lived right on the banks of the Racoon River and once, during heavy rains, we were alerted by the Land Rangers that the Racoon Dam was in danger of washing away. The Rangers came on horseback and warned all the people close to the river. Uncle Monroe agreed to take the night watch, but he fell asleep. I remember my dad wrapping me in a quilt and carrying me up the hill to our cow barn and layingme in the hay. Mom and Dad got all us kids out of the house, but many things were lost in that flood, including the cradle and treasure chest Dad made for Mom before they were married. Mom cried for the loss of the cradle and chest. She was thankful her trunk containing pictures and keepsakes had been stored in the attic and the water did not get that high. We were lucky we had a cow barn where the cows and horses were kept. Dad gave Uncle Monroe holy heck for putting the family in such danger and Uncle Monroe left for a few months and I think he got into some kind of trouble while he was gone because when he returned, we were all told to call him "Uncle Morgan". Uncle Monroe found a good place to hide. We had a closed-in grocery truck and he would go behind the back and read and smoke. He never went to town or visited the neighbors. He had a beard then, and kept the beard until we moved to a farm about seven miles outside of Mt. Vernon, Illinois. Even though Dad always moved us to a farm, he was not a farmer. He left that type of work to mother. She loved the soil and the farm animals. She raised chickens, geese, cows, ducks, turkeys, hogs, beef cattle and milk cows and made a large garden. What she did not can, dry, or store, she sold. She made her own butter and cottage cheese and raised a variety of vegetables. She gathered wild blackberries and rasberries. She made jams and jellies, relishes, pickles, and sauerkraut. She usually put by 300 gallons of tomatoes and 100 gallons of green beans. Irish potatoes and sweet potatoes were bagged and put in the cellar. Turnips, parsnips, carrots and melons were stored in sandboxes. The beef and pork were smoked or canned. While we lived near Mt. Vernon, dad built the Salen Shoe Factory and hotels in Salem and Mt. Vernon. He then applied for and got a foreman's job at the Marquette Cement Plant in Oglesby, Illinois. We moved to a farm at R.R. #1, Peru, which is only a few miles from Oglesby. The house had 4 bedrooms, a large dining room and kitchen. It had a good, dry dirt cellar and a back room for storage. Dad only worked at the cement mill from September 1928 to May 1929. He subscribed to a building magazine and through the want ads he bid on a job in Springfield, Illinois. It was for the Pillsbury Flour Mills. He finished it in September, 1929 and that was his last building job. The Depression hit! We were very lucky-- mom has saved money when dad was earning it. My dad did not drink or gamble. He never swore and his only vice was smoking a pipe. He had three derby hats, one each of black, gray and brown. He owned three suits (black, gray and navy blue) and one white shirt. He wore policeman's shoes, and always kept them shined. He had bib overalls and blue work shirts for every day. He also had a tall western gray hat which we would never crease. He had a black leather cap with ear flaps for winter wear. For a dress coat, he had a fingertip black leather coat that was seal lined. Mother had house dresses for every day wear. She wore a stocking cap in the winter and in the summer always wore a straw hat or sunbonnet. She always insisted that her daughters wore sunbonnets when we worked in the field or garden. She made her own house-dresses and sunbonnets. She wore black shoes with cuban heels around the farm and had black patent slippers with two straps and a buckle for dress. Her dress up clothes were also handmade, often trimmed with her own handmade lace. She had three velvet dresses in green, black and maroon. Mom wore a black cloth coat with a white fur collar. Dad would be gone months at a time on a building job, and just before he was due to return home, Mom would be busy making flannel nightgowns for herself. She would decorate them with delicate smocking and lace. Mom and Dad sure made a handsome couple. They often went to the movies on Saturday nights in the summer. We lived three miles outside of Peru and they would walk to town. After Dad's job was finished in Springfield, he went to work on a dredge boat in Joliet, Illinois. My brother, George, went to the C. C. C. Camp in Idaho. That left Mom and us kids to do the farm work. How Mom managed everything that spring I will never know. She raked the fields for the corn, sugar cane and the garden. She plowed the land, disked it, and harrowed it, then planted seeds in the fields and seedling plants in the garden. In June she gave birth to my brother, James. We did not have a tractor and Mom had to use our two horses and a hand plow. We always set out at least 100 plants each of tomatoes, cabbages and bell peppers and set out long rows of onions and sweet potatoes. We also planted beets, beans, pears, parsnips, turnips, lettuce, radishes & melons. After we put the plant in, we had to carry bucket after bucket of water to the garden. Mom took care of the corn & cane, the older children took care of the garden. My sister, Dora, stayed at the house and took care of the younger children. She would take the baby to mother in the field to nurse. Mother would nurse James and then continue with her chores. We also had a brooder house with incubators where we could hatch eggs from chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys. All together I believe there were about 1,000 eggs to mark and turn. We would put an "X" on one side and an "O" on the other. In the evening we would have to turn the eggs and fill the kerosine heaters. TO BE CONTINUED!
This Page was Updated on 4 September 2000
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