Autobiography of Imilda Leona Wendell
Daughter of Jacob Wendell and Nancy (Fox) Gould
Herkimer County, New York
My father Jacob Wendell lived in the Mohawk Valley N.Y. Raised a a family of 8 children John, Jacob, Jonas, Benjamin, Sarah, Susan, Lany or Magdalena and Kate by his first wife. After his first wife died he married Mrs. Nancy Gould (ne Nancy Fox) who had two children George and Jane. By my father she had eight children, William, James, Nelson, who killed in the Rebellion, Washington and Charles, Lucina and myself, Leona the youngest. I was born at Wilsie Hill, Herkimer Co. N.Y Sept. 29, 1840. I remember living on a farm, small orchard horse, two wagons, cow, pigs, sheep. I was playing on the farm wagon when a "bee stung me or a fly stuck his leg in". I remember having apples in a bin in the cellar and cider in kegs from which we children sucked it through a straw and a neighbors colored cook lady delighted to frighten me by coming and pressing her black face against the outside of a window pane, grimmacing at me. I'd run screaming to my mother and bury my head in her lap or skirts till I'd stifle for breath and sweat all over or run and stick my head under the bed (beds had valances around them though in those days.) Before I was sent to school I used to get the family Bible - my father had family worship a good deal and used the Bible such evenings. I think it took the place of the daily newspaper. He was a great reader I remember. Well, I used to get that Bibble off the table and study the big Capitals and make my sister or mother tell me the names of them, till I finally could read, Then they got me primers with Mother Goose, Chicken Little stories and a religious story book with catacism. I learned them by heard and my first lessons in the Bible, The Night Before Christmas. My mother would make for the Christmas stockings and with the cakes, candy, nuts, ribbons, prunes, etc. would fill the stockings to delight the hearts of us children Christmas morning. That with as good a dinner as my mother and sisters could prepare, with plenty of childish mirth all day we thought Christmas a wonderful day. Of course, I had dolls but only one while it lasted except a boy doll which was never popular as I couldn't cut out and sew its clothes. I spent many hours cutting out and sewing my doll dresses the styles which I copied from seeing my sisters cut and make their dresses. But one of the vexations of my life was having my dresses, my best ones as I thought made from my sister Lucina's dresses cut down. I remember riding with my mother and father in the buggy. I think I was never left at home when they went visiting. My father was a shoemaker and he made fine toots and shoes as there were no factories in those days and I remember the red and colored leather he had to make red topped boots and childrens shoes. He taught all the boys except Charlie to work in the shop doing the common shoes and mending and what sport they had with their whistling, singing, jokes and some time putting the "squeak" on the shoes. I used to hand pegs for bro Jim and no one else could hand them fast enough so I was called on pretty often. Charlie I remember had to hoe the garden and I remember sometimes he would play off and I'd see my father chasing him with the shoe strap. I guess he never caught him but he made him "get busy." It hadn't gotten so fashionable for boys to smoke and chew in _______ as now so all my brothers grew up without the habits that are popular now. My father could only give my brothers a common school education but they all but Charlie got higher education and professions. I must have been about eight years old when we moved to Little Falls N.Y. a town on the Mohawk River and there which went the old Erie Canal. Many a time I saw the freight boats and passenger packet boats being towed by a horse with the driver on his back. The horse hitched by a long cable rope to the boat. The lane on each side of the canal called the "Toe (Tow) Path. The poor horse was whipped along by the driver. There were cotton factories and paper mills in that town and I sometimes went to them and saw them make paper and weave white cotton shirting. I first began school there though I must have been in the 3rd reader. I remember doing examples and getting the multipication table. Once the teacher slapped the palm of my hand with her ruler for missing some words of spelling. Of course that nearly killed me. I liked Little Falls. It was very rocky and picturesque and lovely places for us children to play. We were living near a big butte called the "Rollaway" flat on top on which was grass and trees they cut for wood with a place on its strip side worn down all gravelly where the wood was rolled down. Then we children found glass rocks, that looked like diamonds, we called them that. Along the woods road leading up the Rollaway was an ice cold spring. The cold water gushing out the rocks. It was a Sunday walk for the young people of the town to go and enjoy the shady walk. It was not far from where we lived. We lived in a stone house. Sister Lucina was married then to Horatio Vunk and after my fathers health failed, the family broke up and he went to live with his children by his first wife. They were I guess well and comfortably off and all married. I and mother went to lived with Lucina. My mother took sick and died then on Sept 8th 1850. She is buried at Fort Plain N. Y where our half brother Jacob lived. My father lies beside her. A few months after our mother died my sister Lucina and husband moved out west to Wisconsin and took me along. They went from Little Falls to Buffalo N.Y. in a packet boat over the canal, then got aboard a lake steamer there at Buffalo and went across and down Lake Michigan as far as Port Washington where my half brother and sister George Gould and Jane Haner, brother James, Washington, Charlie were at different places in Washington Co. We went to them. I stayed with sister Jane, brother George and Washington at different times for several years. Lucina and her husband went to Milwaulkie, Wis. to live. It was hard for me to part from sister Lucina, she was a real mother to me and I loved her as such but had to part from and live with my other bros' and sister in a new strange county, but got what comfort I could with sister Jane Haner and children and bro George Gould's family. Bro Jim paid my board at Haner's. Bro George was real good to me. I also lived at bro. Washington's. I got there when Galispy was a year or so old and had lots of comfort with him as I had never had babies in the family before. I lived a little with Lucina at Milwaulkie. She was the only real mother I had. She was always so good and motherly to me and she wanted me to stay with her, but her husband was not willing for me to, and he came up to Cedar Creek where I lived and got Hattie Haner my sister Jane's girl to go home with him to take care of little Freddy instead of me and it nearly broke Lucina's heart as Hattie was not kind to the baby - would hurt him to make him cry so as not to hold him. She didn't stay long and I afterward went. Horatio took sick and died but before he passed on bro Jim was there and he told him and Lucina he had treated me very badly and both them to ask my forgiveness for the unkindnesses he had so often shown me. He claimed a "death bed" pardon and sought God's forgiveness for his treating Lucina and me. He had gotten to be a dentist while living at Milwaulkie and when the cholera broke out and this one summer he sent Lucina and her baby up to the country and worked nursing those stricken with that scourge running the rist of his own life in doing it till it was over with. I always felt that act of brotherly love to the helpless stricken ones covered his unkindness to his own dear ones and when he died she was a sincere mourner. Louisa went to live among our father's first children. She was with sister, Kate Herdman when our father died in 1854. She lived with sister Sarah where she taught a term of school, afterward she came out to Wisconsin where we were. My bro. Nelson took care of mother and me at Lucina's after the family broke up until our mother died, then he went for himself, studied night and day, working at the shoe shop. We was a studious boy and in a year or two he got were he could enter college. He went to Hanover, Indiana where he entered Hanover College, boarding and rooming himself with some other boys. I knew they went to carpenter shops to get their wood and when he lacked funds he got work in a shoe shop during a whole term and every day had his books on his shoe bench to study his lessons and in that way he kept up with the lessons for that term. Then he would back a term, board and room himself as before and not loose out. In that way he graduated. Then he could a good salary teaching in seminaries and academies. He taught Latin and Greek, geometry, Triganomatry, Metaphysics and all ________ in college preparatory school. He taught in Kentucky and Tennessee. He then got fever and again had to come north. He came to Wisconsin and there a new life opened for me. I had taught a summer school at 17 years old and that next fall he opened a private school at the town of Barton, Washington Co., where we all lived, that is ____ brothers and sisters in different places in that county. So he had me attend his school and we both boarded at the same place. What a delightful time that was for me! He taught me so much - lifted me as it were on a higher plain of thought and expressions. He was a splendid linguist, and an idealist. Altho he never wrote poetry he had a poetic nature that velled in it, we didn't have much "trash" rhyming then.
In the spring of 1858 he and I left Wisconsin and went to New York state. We went to Cooperstown, Otsego Co. where bro William lived. I stayed with them and went to the Fernale Academy a term or two. I had a good home with him as sister Maria was a very fine woman and our associations was ver pleasant. William the law profession - was elected county clerk too, for a term. He had a nice comfortable home not far from the academy. I was still going to school during vacations, working at the dressmakers shop learning the trade, as William and Nelson wished to fit me to make my own way in life and they certainly did. Nelson enlisted in the army when it broke out after the first Battle of Bull Rull was fought and our forces were so shamefully defeated. He said he must go and gave up his teaching loosing his salary of $75.00 a month to fight for his country and endure the terrible hardships for $13.00 a month. But it wasn't money or honor that made him do it but pure patriotism and suffering and death was the outcome. His bravery was acknowledged as he was promoted to a captaincy of the 121 Reg New York Infantry Volunteers. He first enlisted in the 44 New York Infantry but that regiment was in some of the hardest service on the Potomac and all cut to pieces, so they game him a furlough and he went home and raised a Company and was made captain of it. At the first or second battle he was killed - picked off by a sharp shooter. Then after he enlisted I went to teaching. I taught one term in New York state near Cooperstown but the pay was too low so after awhile I went back to Wisconsin and taught several terms till Nelson was killed, then as sister Lucina's sister-in-law living in Chcago was living alone, husband in the army, she _____ invited me to come there and stay with her. That took me to Chicago where I got the job of knitting socks for the soldiers. I worked under Mrs. Livermore who had charge of the Department that furnished all a returned wounded sick or needy soldier needed. Also furnished for the soldiers hospitals. It was much the same as the Red cross work today. I was there when the body of Lincoln was brought thru and laid on state at the court house for 24 hours. That was the greatest mournful time of sorry Chicago ever witnessed. Then I met my husband and I gave up teaching and we were married the 17 of August 1865. We bought lots and built a cottage with basement, kitchen. It was very comfortable but as times were so hard during the reconstruction after the war we sold out and thought a country life would be better. So we tried Wisconsin when Ada was born on Oct. 21, 1866. My husband had been a prairie farmer and could not cut down the forests or plow around stumps so we went for awhile back to Chicago then from there to La Salle Co. Ill when Jimmie was born the 27 of Jan 1877. From there we came west to Oregon where a good part of my life has been spent. There I raised my family and the body of my dear husband lies near the shores of the Columbia that he loved so well.Now at the age of 79 years I write this little reminisence of my life on the shores of the lovely and mighty Pacific far from my birth place at Long Beach, California.
Imilda Leona Wendell Berrian
(Written in 1919)
Submitted by: Charlott Wells Jones her great-great grandaughter.
My Great-Grandmother's Childhood
My great-grandmother, Imilda Leona Wendell Berrian, was born at Wilsie Hill, Herkimer County, in New York state on September 29, 1840. She was the youngest child in a family of 18. His father and his first wife had 9 children. When his wife died he married Mrs. Nancy Gould, who had two children. Then they had eight children.
When my great-grandmother was 79 she wrote a reminiscence of her life. The information I shall tell you soon was obtained from this reminiscence.
Her first recollections are of living on a farm with a small orchard, one horse, two wagons, a cow, pigs and sheep. She was playing one day in the farm wagon when "a bee stung me or a fly stuck his leg in." Other recollections are: apples were kept in a bin in the cellar and cider in kegs from which the children sucked it through a straw. Although she did not mention it, this was probably a childish trick, one for which they were punished if caught.
A neighbor's cook delighted in frightening her by pressing her black face against the outside of a window pane, grimacing at her. She would run screaming to her mother and bury her face in her mother's skirts until she would stifle a breath, or she would run to stick her head under the bed. Beds had valances around them in those days.
Before she went to school she would get the family Bible from the table and study the big capitals and make her sisters or mother tell her the names of them until she could read. Then her parents got her Primers with Mother Goose and Chicken Little stories and a religious story book with catechims. She learned them and her first lessons in the Bible by heart.
Imilda, as she was called in her childhood, had dolls, only one at a time while it lasted except for a boy doll which was never popular as she could not cut out or sew clothes for it. She copied the styles which her sisters used in making their dresses. One of the chief vexations of her life was having her best dresses made from her sister Lucina's dresses and made over to fit her.
Her father was a shoemaker. There were no factories in those days, about the 1850's. He taught all the boys except Charles to work in his shop doing the common shoes and mending. Imilda used to hand pegs to her brother James and no one else could hand them fast enough so she was called on pretty often. Charlie had to hoe the garden but sometimes he would not hoe, and Imilda would see her father chasing him with the shoe strap. Although he was never caught, Charlies was kept busy.
My great-grandmother's life was very different from the life of her descendants, as was shown in these few incidents I have related.
Barbara Jean Clark
Submitted by Charlott Wells Jones &Nbsp; Great-great granddaughter of Imilda Leona Wendell Berrian
Note: Imilda's father Jacob Wendell actually had 12 children by his first wife, but only 9 of them lived.
Copyright © 2012 - 2013 Charlott Wells Jones
All Rights Reserved.