A Branch in the Family Tree

My mom recently shared an incomplete handwritten memoir written by Alice. She was my 3rd great-aunt. Born 1844 in Cheshire, England and died in America sometime in 1919. I found her to be a daring branch in my family tree. She lived a simple life but she undoubtedly persevered through many hardships. Her memoir stops in her 20’s but she lived to 75. I was disappointed that her story was not a complete history of her life.  A lot was left unwritten in between Alice’s 1844-1919. There is so much life in the little dash between everyone’s birth and death. I think we all should write our story, a book of remembrance to pass down to future generations. Afterall, your story is the life you live, the dash between birth and death.

This was Alice’s story:

Alice  1844-1919

What I remember of my past life:

The first I remember I was quite a little girl. I had a blue cloak and my father and mother took me to the doctor to see if there was anything wrong with my tongue. I remember the doctor told me to put out my tongue, and he would give me a penny. I stuck out my tongue, but did not get the penny. I had father, mother, three brothers and one sister. I do not remember my sister living at home. I had a cherry rocking chair. I remember sitting and rocking a good deal. My mother bought my chair and I liked it very much.

The next I remember we were living in another house in Staley (Staleybridge, England), I think I must be about two or three years old. I remember David my youngest brother wore my blue cloak, and my mother had what I thought was a very pretty shawl. It had a blue ground with black squares in it, and on one side of the square was a white thread. My little brother was rocked in a cradle in front of the house. It was flagged and in the flags was an iron grate, and they used to put coal in there, and it went into the cellar. My father’s name was Robert, and my mothers name was Elizabeth.

One day my grandfather and my Aunt Alice came to see us, and they took me back with them. I remained with them two years. Grandmother kept house for Aunt Alice and she went out to work. They lived in Ashton (Ashton-Under-Lyne, England). Grandma kept a little shop, and had candy and they used to help themselves, and so did I.  I used to run errands for grandma and she learned me to read and sew. She gave me a penny to buy a thimble and I spent the money on fancy (backers). I got a spanking. I used to go out and tend babies while their mothers was busy, and they would give me a bowl of (Sago) or something and if the child cried while I had it they said I pinched it to get rid of it, but I never did.

My Aunt made me a jacket and it was called a monkey jacket. I did not like the name and did not like to wear it. I washed the dishes one day and I had on a new apron and I wet it and I put it on the fender before the fire while I washed myself and it caught fire and it was burned. Another time grandma told me to shut the kitchen door and not let the hens in. I forgot and when I went in, the hens were in and I was so frightened, I frightened them and they flew in all directions. On the shelves, among the dishes, and broke some of them. I went to a child’s funeral one day, and they said I laughed while in the back at the other children on the street. I remember going to Sunday school one Sunday and was very impatient to get home for my sister was there and two children. They said I could not go, I must stay to church. I cried and in a little while my sister and her two children came in to church and then I was all right. They came to be christened. I think that is the first time I remember seeing my sister. I think at this time, for the first time, to know who she was.

Somewhere about this time, mother burst a blood vessel and had to go away. I went to my sister Mary’s and the boys stayed with father. Mother took David. Mary’s oldest boy fell or jumped off a stone wall and broke his leg and I had to go back to grandma’s. Father and family moved to Ashton about this time, and he came in the night one night and took me out of bed while the folks was at meeting and I was frightened in the dark for years after. They said he kidnapped me. Another time he picked me up in a field as I was playing with my brothers and carried me home. He wanted me to live at home and he was out of work and could not provide for them. That was there.

Finally father and family left there and went to Manchester (England) to live. I remained with grandma till he got work. I went on a visit with Aunt Alice. Father did not get work for some time. Mother was sick and discouraged – was in bed. Brother James wanted to know what was the matter with her and if a cup of tea would do her good. She said yes if she had one. They were too poor to buy. He went out in one of the neighbor’s houses. They were all strangers and he said my mother is sick in bed and she thinks a cup of tea would make her better. They wanted to know who his mother was and where she lived and he told them. They gave him money to buy some tea and bread and he went back to mother, made her the tea and gave her some bread. They came in to see if he was telling the truth, and she soon got up. So when we got there they were still very poor. I went back with her till father got work.

Then I went to live with them and went to school. Learned to read and write in the forenoon and sew and knit in the afternoon. Stayed there about a year after I went. We went to live on Garden St. and we bought some coal and put it in the back yard and before we got ready to use it was gone. Someone else wanted it-do not remember that much about Manchester. It seemed to be a large and busy place. Mother got so she liked it very well and did not like to leave it. My oldest brother Joseph was working in a bookbindery and they liked him very well. James went to school and they liked him so well that when he did not go for lack of funds the master said he would pay for him himself sooner than he should stay at home. He was a bright boy. David went out (nursing) and got nuts for his pay. Father got work in Staley and when he had been there some time we moved there. He covered the rolls for (Tadsheads) new mill and kept the lodge.

We three, James, David, and myself went to St. Paul’s church school. We did very well until the teachers left, and they took teachers from among the scholars and we thought we knew as much as they did. Well, James said he would not go to be taught by them and so instead of going to school we went down to the canal and watched them load and unload grain at the flour mill and someone saw us and told father. James put some exercises on our slates and put our school money in our stockings. When we got home father wanted to know where we had been and where our school money was, and we got what we deserved! I think James had to go to work and David and myself went to another school. Joseph was a prentice in a (turning) shop.

We lived in quite a pretty place between the river and canal and in spring we used to look for (coltsfoot) daisies and other lovely flowers. We had a garden. We had two beds and a walk between and a seat at the end where we could sit and look at the flowers and feel the cool breezes from the river.

One day before James went to work, we were playing house. We had a bottle turned upside down for a well and we went to walk and every once in a while we would look back to see that nothing disturbed our house. We saw a dog playing and scratching around our playhouse. We turned back to drive the dog away, when father and some more men came shouting and telling us not to go near the dog as it was mad. They had pitchforks and they soon dispatched it.

After James went to work, I had to take the clothes to mangle. I do not know how far but it was a good way. Ed Wilson used to carry them for me almost every week. I don’t see now how I ever did carry them. A big clothes basket with clothes for five persons of our own besides others. I left school soon after. I was ten (1854) and I wanted to go to work and bring in some money to help along.

I passed the inspector before I was 11, and he passed me for 13 and never asked me anything and so I thought I must go to work, so I did and when I left I had presents from all that I worked for.

Before David left school he fell in the canal. He was sailing ships and held on to a boat that was unloading coal. The boat lurched and lost his balance and fell in. The boatman (hooked) him out. We lost a bird by death while there. We had it 16 years. It was the same age as my oldest brother. We buried it by the riverside beside the garden. We had a funeral and we walked single file. James and David made a box or coffin we called it, and after we buried it we planted an oak tree. We felt very sad at the funeral.

I remember going to a wedding. The first I remember it was Mr. James Alstead or Adshead-I forget which. We had a nice time. Miss Annie played the piano and the old ladies danced. We had a grand supper with (blazing) pudding. We had to eat it on fire. It was fun. We children could not stay very long as there was a lame girl going home and she said it was time for me to go home and instead of going back as I wanted to I had to stay at home myself, so she spoilt my good time.

We came to America in 1857. Had a nice time getting ready. Stopped in Liverpool two days waiting for a fair wind as we came in a sailing vessel. We lost quite a number of small things in Liverpool, such as a reticule and two straw hats and a few other things. Mother told us as we were leaving Liverpool to take a long last look at the shores of England, as we should perhaps never see them again. We enjoyed our trip over. We children enjoyed ourselves but mother was sick all the way. Father and Joseph met us in Boston. Father bought mother and me a new brooch and mother a new wedding ring as hers was worn out. While waiting for Father and Mother and the rest to go on shore on some business, I was to look after the things. I wore an old dress and my good one was laid on the bed in the cabin. Someone came and took it away with my bonnet and (Cirder) cloak. Scavengers they called them and they had to go and buy me something to wear.

We at last started on the train for Woonsocket, and after going a few miles we had to stop for three or four hours as the freight before had run over a cow and had wrecked the train. The engineers were scolded. They telegraphed for an engine to meet us on the other side of wreck. We walked through it. There were boots and shoes, rubbers, groceries, and almost everything. Our boys, that is James and David, they went into an orchard and helped themselves to apples.

We arrived at Blackstone at 10 instead of 5, and it was very dark and an express man came up to mother and asked her if she was going to Woonsocket. She said yes, when her husband came, he was looking after the luggage. And being so late we missed connections. Well, to this day I guess that man will remember us going away without father and Joseph in a strange land among strangers and we had heard such stories about the people in this country.

We arrived in Woonsocket at last, and the man found Uncle James and knocked at the door. We went in, the people said we were all right. There were an old man, short and very stout in a white night cap. He was a stranger to all of us, but he said he was sure we were all right. There were two women, one was round-shouldered and the other was humpback. They looked very funny to me. The man took the stick he had in his hand and began to rap on the ceiling and I thought he was crazy. Then someone came downstairs and mother knew it to be Uncle James. And then we were all right. We went upstairs and they got supper for us, and then went to bed. Father and Joseph came later.

Father had a tenement for us, but not furnished, near the Monument House, Woonsocket. Father got us all work in the mill and then we had our first (france?). Uncle James advised father to move in one of the factory tenements and then we should be sure of a house to live in. At any rate, they had a strike at the mill, but we got along very well. We all worked when we got it to do, and father saved money. Mother also worked besides her own work. She took boarders and she washed for an old lady on Earl St., Mrs. Durfee. Father bought a cow and a piece of land. Five dollars for cow and five dollars down on land. The land was far away. We could not go there and work in the mill. So father let that go. He turned the cow out-of-doors one morning at breakfast time. So, he had to sell that and lost ten dollars on that, besides milking tins and other things.

We all went to mother. Father persuaded us all to go back to him. We went, and then he wanted to go to Fall River and keep a store. After awhile, we went. Father said I should go to school one term and then learn a trade. David should go to school and learn a trade. We went. I had to go and work in a mill, and David also. He got us down there and used us worse than ever. He said if mother would leave him he would give her a dollar. She got ready and he locked her up in an empty room, and I let her out.

His store was a failure. He said we ate up stock and profit. I went to work one night. As I came home from work he knocked me down for laughing at a little boy. I was sent out by mother. I went to a neighbor’s house and asked her if I could stay for a little while. She said yes, I could stay as long as I liked. I never went back to father’s house. Father got the boy’s wages and went away and told the store man not to bring any groceries, as he was going away. And mother had nothing for them to eat, and James was without shoes and father had fussed so much about their pay the overseers told them they would have to let them go as they did not want father bothering around. So James helped mother take what things she needed and she had an offer of a tenement for three or four months without rent – she took it. And James went to Blackstone to his old Sunday school teacher, Alex Ballue.

I had two looms and the overseer was kind to me and made me get my pay before the time so father would not get it. I went to live with mother and David. David went out on a boat one Sunday morning against mother’s wishes and in half an hour and came back with a broken finger. The hammer of the gun struck it and broke it.

We had to leave Fall River. Father bothered mother so we went back to Woonsocket and found Joseph married and living with Uncle James. I got work at the social mill weaving heavy sheeting – four looms. David came and Uncle James gave him work in the spinning room. Did not give our boys as much wages as other boys for fear the owners would think he was favoring his own. Mother came and we all went to the boarding house to live. Joseph and his wife too. We went from there to live on Earle St. in Almon Millar’s house after James (“JB”) had typhoid fever at Uncle James’. He was a very sick boy and it was a bad season for almost every case was fatal. He got up and we each one gave him what money we had and he went to Fall River on a visit. He came back recuperated in three months.

He teased mother to let him go to the war to protect the president at the inauguration fourth of March. Lincoln called for the first three months for men. He made mother let him go. He sent his bounty to her and his pay. She would not have it, but put it in the bank for him. I think he stayed some over the time but he and those who were left of co. R.I.D.M. (Rhode Island Detached Militia) came home one Sunday morning. They gave it out in church and dismissed the meeting and we went across the street to the depot and waited. I watched every sunburned face for James but did not see him and it made me ill. I thought he was killed. I do not remember how it was I missed him. He came home all right – he was not in the battle of Bull Run, he was sick in hospital at the time he laid on the ground and heard the cannons booming. We were living at the social again when he came home. He wanted to go back to the civil war but we persuaded him not to go. I think my brother Joseph was drafted but did not go on some account. James was quite a lion.

The doctor told mother when he heard he had gone to the war she would never see him again as he would die in that warm climate and the hardship he had to endure. He said she should have told him he would have stopped him when he came home all right no one was more pleased than the old doctor. He used to send us beautiful letters. Some I think I have got now and some of his school letters too. I usually received the letter and then Joseph read them, then Uncle James, then very often Mr. Charles Narce the superintendent of the mill. After James came home he worked in the mill and a heavy weight fell on his toe – laid him up for a while.

They shut down in the cotton mills and he went to Blackstone to work and get work for David and me. I was burling. I don’t remember what David did. We had just moved there when mother was taken very sick. We went into a new house and perhaps not quite dry and overdoing moving. She had inflammation of bowels and other complications. She was sick three months when she got better. She did not or could not walk and she seemed to have lost one whole season. Grandma Ballue, Alex’s mother used to come in almost every day to sit by her. It was a very trying time. She was three weeks just on the point of death, but God was merciful to us and she got well.

James bought a melodeon while at the social and he used to play and we would sing and we used to have very grand times together. We went to singing school together and when we came home we used to have another one until mother was sick. They went, but I had to stop at home and not sing at home until she got well. Then James went to E. Greenwich A. to school and worked his way through mostly sweeping, dusting, ringing the bell, and as he learned bookkeeping he taught it and civil engineering surveyor until he had learned all he wanted to. He used to work vacations at school. He found his wife. She was his opposite at table. her father and mother kept the Cranston Hotel. She was never taught to work, only as she wanted to fit herself for a teacher. She worked in the print works vacations. He went west and came home and married Emma (Parker) and took her out there and lived with some brethren.

We were all members of the Baptist church in Woonsocket and James when he went west he went right to work in the church. He was superintendent in Sunday school, led the choir, and I don’t know what else. And this Mr. Meyor told him he was not serving God at all. God would not accept of his service. James was nearly well. Emma wanted to come home to her mother and James had a lot of money out and so they came home. He made ten dollars per day and then he could not find anything to do around here so went to Fall River and started an office there surveying and C.E. Amana was born in Cranston. And when she was three or four weeks old, Emma went down to see James and would not leave him. They had two rooms and they lived in them until he got a tenement. While we, Dave, mother and myself lived in Blackstone, they sold the house we lived in and we moved across the street in Mrs. Ballue’s house and David learned his trade in Norrises Mill, new mill.

I had to leave home for six months to live in Boston out on account of my health. When I came back, mother, David and Joseph and wife and Mary was living at the Privilege. Doctor Wilson and his father and mother was our next neighbor. James in (Woonsocket). I think he left there to go to Falls and Jenks machine shop to set up some kind of machinery and then take it to Paisley (?Scotland). He went to see my sister (Mary) and family in Cranston and Aunt Alice. I think he was gone about nine months. Joseph left the Priv and went to Providence to Grand Street Mill. Was there thirteen years. While there James was married and went west. When I came back from Boston to Priv, worked in Norris old mill until the fire then left and sewed cloth in Priv mill until I was twenty-nine (1873). Then David got work in Pawtucket and he got a tenement and we had to come. He worked in James Brown’s shop until they shut down and then we sold out.


  1. Memory is an amazing gift. Memories shape who we are and hopefully teach us the important things about life.

    I’ll be following your posts through My Favorites on Internet Explorer. That just seems easier for me. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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