The Autobiography or Diary of Mary Jane Dudley Donaldson

In honor of my maternal grandmother's birthday, the story of her early life in her own words:

I was born June 26, 1898 in a big one room log house. I was the youngest of seven, six boys all born in this house. It was in Clinton County, Ohio on a mud road called Mud Switch. It was a big event when I came along with six brothers and I stood a rough time. We built two other rooms later.

We had three acres of ground my father gardened for food. My mother canned a lot of vegetables and dried beans and corn. We all picked blackberries and grapes to can and make jam and jelly.

My father cut wood and cross ties for the B & O Railroad also fence rails. There was a woods across the road from where we lived where my father worked. It was owned by S. S. Puckett who had a [illegible].

I would go with my father in the woods to play. I would gather hickory nuts, hazel nuts, and acorns. My father would trim a big tree when he cut it. I would help him pile brush and he would cut a big limb for me to ride as a horse. I would watch the birds and squirrels.

My mother would drive a horse and buggy about two miles into Lynchburg and wash and iron all day for 50 cents to a dollar to help make a living for us all. It was hard to get along there.

My mother would bring home what we call whole wheat flour (25 pounds would be 25 cents a sack) to make our bread. My father would buy white corn and shell to take to the mill to grind for corn meal to make corn bread. We would all shell corn at night, also shell beans.

We would gather maple sap in the spring to make maple syrup. It would take a lot to make a pint. I helped to gather it from sugar maple trees and boil it down in a big iron kettle which we also used to make lye hominy and boil white corn to get the shells off in the lye. It had to be washed a lot before use.

We also made our lye soap in the big kettle to wash with. We used fat [illegible] and grease and dripped our lye. We had a big barrel out by our back door with a big old tub with ashes in it which we put on top of the barrel under the roof. My father would save the hickory ash when he cut a tree to put in the tub and when it would rain it would run into the tub in the ash making the lye. We also made apple butter in the kettle and we made dried apples.

We lived by a big ditch which we called the township ditch. I would play in it in the summer and skate in the winter. There was a big pond below our place where my brothers and other neighbor children played in the ice a game called shinney by hitting a can with a club to see who made the goal post first. I would get hit on the head but I was not the goal. My brothers would try to make me stay home but I would slip off and follow.

I and my two youngest brothers went to a one room brick school and walked about two mile. We got there before it started, 8:30 a.m., and would not get home till around 5:00 p.m. We wore heavy clothing and gingham dresses and wool stockings my mother knit, and high top shoes. We had heavy snows then and it would drift over a rail fence where I and my brother would slide over the top.

We had a one room white frame church beside the school where we would go on Sunday. We would all go and if anyone got sick, folks would go and cut wood for the stoves. The ladies would cook the meal for the help.

We would have box suppers to get money for our church. We would fix a box with food and put our name inside and sell it to the highest bidder and we were to eat with the fellow who bought it. Sometimes we were not pleased with the fellow.

We also went on hay rides with a big wagon and a team of horses hitched to it filled with straw and blankets over it. We would sing and ask riddles and in winter there was bobsleds which some had and would hitch to with sideboards on and hay to go sled riding for miles, and sometimes to spelling bees and ciphering matches to other schools.

How would you folks like these times today?


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