Memories of Sharon Huffman

Sharon Huffman (c 2009)

[My first cousin, once removed, Sharon Marie (Larson) Huffman, recently passed away. Among her documents was one where she wrote of some of her memories regarding her grandparents, my great-grandparents Arthur Durwood and Mary Elizabeth (Manning) Brown. Many thanks to Tim and Julia for providing me a copy of Sharon’s memories and giving permission for me to present them here. I have done minimal editing of her writing.]

Grandpa Arthur and Grandma Mary Brown
My grandfather Arthur Brown was a young farmer in the hills of Sylvan Township, near Brainerd, Minnesota. He was born in 1868 and died in 1928. If I understand correctly, he was born in Lansing, Michigan. At the age of 21, he married Mary Elizabeth Manning. She was 14 years old. Together they had 12 children, two of which died in infancy.

Arthur Durrwood and
Mary Elizabeth (Manning) Brown

Grandpa died at the age of 60. Mom thinks that he had Cancer, but that they didn’t call it cancer in those days. She was only ten years old. We were never to know this grandfather.

Grandma Brown was born in Kentucky around 1876. Giving birth to 12 children back in those days left her with a lot of hard work. She was quite a woman. I have the most respect for her memory. I loved her so very much. This grandma became one of my very best friends.

My earliest memories of her are of her visiting us while we lived in Brainerd. But it was after we moved to Motley and I was a teenager that I truly came to appreciate her presence in my life.

Many times she would sit us down and tell us of her earlier years. She worked very hard to raise her family often. I don’t think it was easy. There were six boys, and four girls. She didn’t have modern conveniences and I’m sure there must have been tons of laundry, meals to cook, vegetables to raise, chickens to feed, and all kinds of other chores. Medical crisis were often handled by herself, as doctors were not as accessible as they are today. She told of her baby dying in her arms, scarlet fever among the children, and one son falling against the stove and injuring himself badly. Sons gone to war, coming home with Malaria, losing her wonderful husband at such a young age and her home to fire while she was with him as he was dying. She also told of bankers coming to try to foreclose on her land and people trying to take her children. She stood firm, shotgun in hand.

Grandma helped deliver babies back then and I think was present at the time of my birth in the house across the street from her own where my Aunt Nettie and Uncle Earl lived. This was in 1940.

Grandma had a little house of three rooms when I first remember going to her house. My Uncle Dick lived with her. He was still suffering the effects of Malaria and had a hard time getting around without a cane and sometimes two. She cared for him daily. She had a bedroom, kitchen, and living room. At one side of the living room was the bed and dresser for my uncle. They had no inside bathroom at that time and it was only a short time before I left Minnesota in 1973 that they had a toilet installed at one end of her bedroom. It was a crowded little house, and yet there was always room for company. It was also around that time that they changed the “pitcher” pump for a pressure pump. I don’t remember her ever having a hot water heater.

Grandma Brown & Uncle Dick Brown

Grandma and Uncle Dick raised a large vegetable garden every year. There wasn’t a weed in it. I’d see her out with the hand pushed cultivator cleaning the rows between the veggies. Most nights you could also hear the water being pumped through the garden hose to water the garden, after the pressure pump came into being. Then when harvest time would come she would can the vegetables, pickle most everything that could be pickled, and make jellies, relishes, chow chow, and also can fruits that they had picked and some they bought at the store. All of these things, plus potatoes, onions, squash, and melons, were stored in the little cellar under the kitchen. When he could, Uncle Dick would catch lots of fish, hunt deer, and raise chickens so they would have meat to add to their diet. My favorite Christmas gift from her would be a pint jar of wild plum butter.

Flowers were also a joy in her life. She would make little flowerbeds in the sand and coax many kinds of flowers into life. She took great pride in raising beautiful gladiolas, dahlias, pinks, pansies, and others. What a special day when you were presented with one of her prize flowers as a gift.

For many years, Grandma would bake her own bread. Her fingers were gnarled and sore from Arthritis, but she kneaded the bread dough anyway. I t was a great treat to have Grandma’s home made bread toasted with peanut butter on it. I t was only later in her life that I would encourage her to buy bread from the store so her hands wouldn’t hurt so badly.

Grandma always saw too it that we had something to eat if we went to her house. There were times when we came home from school at noon and there would be no lunch – No one home. We would go over to her house and she would fix us something and send us back to school. There were times when Mom would go to her for something to feed us kids. I regret the times when she would send something over in her canning jars, and we would not wash it but just put it out behind the house. Then she would have to come and get them and wash them up to save for next falls canning season.

Another thing my grandma did was make hand made quilts. She had a treadle sewing machine and did a lot of the stitching by hand. She made use of many old clothes. Instead of just throwing them away, she would put them in a quilt. I t was quite often that you would see a piece of your old dress in one of grandma’s quilts.

She would become upset when we would take them out in the yard and sun bathe. Not only because we were getting the quilts dirty, but that we were “half naked” in our bathing suits. How I wish I had one of them now. It would never be used outside on the grass. It is because of her being a Christian that I am today. She led us to Sunday school and taught us from the Bible. She not only talked being a Christian, but she lived what she talked. I have never met a person so trustworthy in my whole life. You could tell her something and it never went any further. She didn’t gossip at all. She would never take anything that didn’t belong to her either. When Mom lived in Mound, Minnesota, she would come to visit Grandma on the weekends. She would bring food to be used while there and occasionally there would be some left over. I t took a lot of talking for me to convince her that Mom wanted her to use up what was left over so it didn’t go to waste. She would say, “That belongs to your mother.”

The strength she had never ceased to amaze me. One time she had a headache and was laying on the couch. She took some liniment and was rubbing it on her forehead. Some ran down into her eye and started burning. Quietly she got up and went to the sink to wash it out. Never a peep out of her. We finally realized what had happened and helped her wash it out of her eye.

Not being able, as a young lady, to go to school she wasn’t well educated. She would send us to the store with her “shopping bag” and a “list” of things she needed. We would always chuckle as we tried to figure out what she needed. She wrote things as they sounded to her and that would sometimes be bred, mlk, egs, serel, and other staples. I n spite of not being educated she was a member of the Woman’s Relief Corp, the Assembly of God Church, and other organizations. She read her Bible as best she could, memorizing many verses and chapters.

Mary Brown

She truly loved each one of us kids. She became our source of comfort and security. She was always there for us. As I became older and would bring my own children to visit her, I acquired many memories. We would prepare a meal and then I would help her with the dishes. She would hold the dishpan in her lap and wash and I would dry and put away. The heat from the dishpan helped ease the pain in her legs and the hot water helped with her hands. After we would get everything put away, she and I would 
sit with a cup of tea and visit. How I loved those times of fellowship with her.

Grandma also loved my children very much. I t would tickle me when she would call my son Forrest so many different names trying to say it right. Sometimes he was Forrester, Foster, Foister, and then she might get it right. When he was just a baby, she thought he had fingers long enough to be a piano player some day. Tim, she called “the investigator.” She knew him quite well as he grew up loving to take things apart. Renee, her “pretty little girl” and Todd was the baby.

We never went to Grandma’s that she didn’t want us to spend the night. She said she would make a bed on the floor for
us. She didn’t want us to go home in the dark. That is one of the reasons that when my Uncle Dick said that we were coming too often, that it was too hard on grandma that it broke my heart. I don’t think she would have been happy knowing he had told me that. She loved having us come.

It was a sad day when we moved from Minnesota to Idaho and I had to say goodbye to my dear grandmother. I was visiting her and telling her how afraid I was to fly. I just knew that I would die in a plane crash. She reassured me, telling me I was going to be just fine She hugged me and told me she loved me, and that God did too and He would look out for me. I left her with a longing and sadness in my heart over leaving her behind. Years passed and we had moved to Alaska. She had moved from her little home to a nursing home. When I was able to come back to see her I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to see her again and feel her love. I t was not to be. My sister, Barbie, and I went to the nursing home and Barbie said to her, you remember Shari don’t you grandma? She said yes, and turned away from me, talking about Barbie picking a bouquet of flowers out of her Poinsettia plant. She was in another dimension. She didn’t know me anymore. It broke my heart.

I wasn’t able to come back for her funeral. She died on Mother’s Day in 1983. Gone to be with her heavenly father. The one she had served all of her life. Our loss was Heaven’s gain and I’m sure the angels welcomed her with open arms for she truly was one of them.

Mary Elizabeth and Arthur Durwood Brown

Children born to them were:


Clyde
Clarence
Richard
Arthur
Edward
Charles
Victoria
Cora
Delores
Nettie Mae
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