Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.
She was born in a time that was anything but easy. Ancestral records have her birth date between 1844 and 1847. She’s my great-great grandmother Adeline, and she was no stranger to hard times in pre and post Civil War eras.
Born in Tennessee, she emigrated with her family to Missouri as a young girl and was married November 4, 1866. Her husband, Lafayette (“Fate” for short) served in the Civil War in the 16th Missouri Cavalry, Company C as a scout, patrolling routes across the Ozark foothills.
I know very little actual history about my great-great-grandparents. They lived in and around the areas of Ozark and Nixa. In the 1800s, this area would have been a rough and rural place, filled with “hill people.” Not sure if Adeline and Fate were “hill people,” but this setting looks pretty darn rural to me. So we’re going with that theory. She doesn’t appear to be much of an urban fashionista.
Modern conveniences were not known to her during this time. Out of butter? While this is a minor inconvenience for us, “out of butter” meant something completely different to her, and involved a lot more work that running to the local grocery store. Are you sick? Forget about affordable health care insurance programs. Most people here relied on “Mountain Medicine” of herbs and other home remedies to cure ailments. Mortality rates were pretty high and only the strongest survived.
Adeline (Lettie for short) obviously didn’t have many luxuries. She probably had to make just about everything her family needed for clothing and food. Most homes during this era had spinning wheels, quilting racks and canning supplies. But when your water is drawn from a deep well and you spend much of your day in back-breaking work in sweltering heat or bone-chilling cold, luxuries were probably limited to a good crop harvest and a bolt of fabric to make a new dress. Mother is the necessity of invention was probably her mantra.
In the 1800s, the Ozark area was a region of beautiful foothills and pristine creeks and lakes. Wildlife such as deer, wild turkey, and other small game was abundant for food. It’s also an area well-known for red clay dirt. And depending on where one lived, it may have been almost impossible to get a good crop of anything to grow. I don’t know if Lettie and Fate resorted to making moonshine to supplement their income, but I wouldn’t be surprised! Many “hill people” did just that. She also may have had a crop of tobacco tucked away somewhere based on that pipe she’s sporting in this photo.
According to genealogy records I’ve found, GGG’ma Lettie had four children; quite a small family for this time in history. Most women had children every two years or so, beginning from the time they married until well into their 40s…resulting on average of eight to ten per family to help run the farms.
Independent and self-sufficient probably accurately describes my great-great grandparents. Their life was impossibly hard by our cushy standards, and success or failure lied firmly in their own hands. Survivor also describe them as GGG’ma Lettie ended up living to the accomplished, ripe old age of 89. GGG’pa Fate only survived three years without her.