V. The Move to Augusta

In March, 1917, the S. E. Wood family moved to Augusta, Ill., in Hancock County. My father had bought a larger farm near a good high school.

From Ellington to Augusta it is only about 30 miles, but it was a chilly, all-day ride in the horse drawn surrey, in which rode my parents and we six children, the youngest of whom was my brother Byron, only 6 months of age.

We had spent the night in the home of a neighbor, Frank Thyson. We ate our noon meal at a Camp Point restaurant. Previously five or more boxcar loads of machinery, livestock and household goods had been shipped by freight from Fowler, Ill.

We all stayed at the Augusta Hotel for a week while the interior of the small farm house was being fumigated, painted, and papered.

After living in the farmhouse for several days we had an unpleasant surprise. Bedbugs! Mother said, "It is no disgrace to get them, but is a disgrace to keep them". It was a daily task to inspect the bedding and beds for the insects. Bottles of carbolic acid were obtained from Pitney's Drug Store. In those days there were no insect sprays to use, so the acid was applied with feathers along the baseboard and around window and door frames. If a live bug was found it was impaled on a needle and then burned with a match, rather than being swatted on the wallpaper leaving an ugly red stain.

I never found one on myself but they had engorged themselves on someone during the night. In appearance bedbugs are very similar to wood ticks, but their odor is different.

I was glad that I had learned to identify bed bugs. I discovered there were bedbugs in the henhouse on the Dayton farm where we lived when first married. One evening I was carrying setting hens to confine in a coop when I found something crawling on my arm. Bedbugs, again! I was constantly on the lookout afterwards fearing that some might be carried inside. I'm happy to say they weren't.


Before proceeding further with my memoirs, I want to give a tribute to Mother.


A. My Mother

In addition to her regular duties as a wife, mother, and family helper, Mother had most of the responsibility for the care of two invalid children.

While living in Ellington, my sister Fern, at the age of two, fell down basement steps in the barn, causing a head injury. She developed epilepsy which partially paralyzed her left side. She attended public school for three years, after which Mother was asked to teach her at home.

My brother Charles had St. Vitas dance, a nervous disorder. It affected his speech, and he didn't learn to walk till about two years of age. He did very well in school though. After graduation from Augusta High School he attended Gem City College in Quincy, graduating with Bookkeeping and Banking credits, and the honor of not having been absent or tardy.

Mother was a wonderful person, loved and admired by everyone. She was most devout; her religious faith and love gave her the strength to carry on through many difficult situations and periods. She was always there willing to give a helping hand.

B. Life at Augusta (continued)

Entering school at Augusta as an adolescent was a difficult time for me.

I had to make new friends and develop new interests. I didn't have many changes of clothing, and what I had I felt were out of date. One day one of the girls asked why I wore the same dress so often!

I became very self -conscious and developed an inferior complex. I felt so embarrassed, I seldom volunteered in class. I'd painfully remain in my seat when I needed to ask permission to go to the toilet; I'd be noticed as I walked across the room to leave! Several times the situation became even more embarrassing because I hadn't asked permission to leave!

During my sophomore year we moved into Augusta while a larger house was being built on the farm. Now I was able to take part in more school activities. One was to play basketball with the girls on the school playground. We wore white middy blouse and black bloomers. 

In 1917, after the United States joined forces with the Allies in World War I, some of the older schoolboys left school to enlist. We girls did our part by knitting socks, sweaters and afghans.

While living in Augusta we were able to regularly attend Sunday School and church services. We took part in Children Day's programs, too. I was asked to play the piano for Sunday School (Presbyterian Church).

I will remember Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1918. What a lot of excitement! Bells were rung, a bonfire was built, and the Kaiser was hung in effigy. Another memory of Armistice Day (1918) was a burn received. When frying some pork and carrying the hot skillet to a table. I slipped on an apple peeling on the floor (We also were frying apples for noon meal) pouring the hot grease on my left foot. It was a very painful burn which was slow in healing.

Before the new house was finished we moved back to the farm into the basement of the house. One rainy night we were suddenly awakened by our parents. About a foot of water had come into the basement. My father had put on his hip boots, gotten a ladder, and was ready to help us get up to the floor. The carpenters had to work around us from then on that fall.

The next year we children had a mild case of smallpox. We were quarantined for a four-week period. As we had our school books home, we were able to keep up with our studies and easily pass the semester exams.

During our summer vacation time we had little time for play. Father had planted a large strawberry patch; many days I helped pick strawberries from dawn to dark. Mother had a large garden, and she raised a lot of chickens and ducks.

When school was in session and I needed some money for school supplies, I was given some eggs or a few hens to take in the buggy to sell at the Dennis Poultry House.

Raising chickens can have a lot of problems. If baby chicks are caught out in a rain they may have to be brought in and placed in boxes by the oven door to dry. If they are frightened while in the brooder house they panic, smothering one another. Diseases, such as cocciciosis, New Castle disease and limbernick may take their toll, too.

I well remember the big Easter snow of 1920; it was a two-day affair. During the morning hours of April 4, 1920, 4 1/2 inches fell; later in the day an additional 6 1/2 more inches had fallen. When church bells rang on Easter eleven inches of snow was on the ground.

On Monday regardless of the cold weather and the snow I walked up the railroad track to attend school. Most of the other students from the country were absent that day.

C. Teaching at Washington and Bloomfield Schools.

After graduating from high school in 1921, I attended Western Illinois Teachers College in Macomb, Illinois, taking a six week summer course. In September I was hired to teach at Washington School, about three miles from home. I was to receive a salary of $70 per month from an eight month term. My duties included that of being janitor and banking the stove fire for the night.

Never will I forget my first day, rather, my first half day of teaching school! I was so embarrassed, for I didn't get there until noon!

On Sunday I had accompanied the family in our car to Loraine, Illinois in Adams Count to spend the day at the Adah and Baptist Strickler, cousins of my father. That afternoon we had a hard rain. We had to stay all night as the roads were too muddy for us to return on that night.

After reaching home the next forenoon, I had to change clothes and then drive the horse to school. I had telephoned Glen Sickles, the director, who lived closest to school, telling him I would be late, and for him to notify pupils, and the other two directors. Even so, I'm sure some of the pupils hadn't gotten the message!

Although I knew that a previous teacher had resigned from Washington, I found that I had eleven well behaved pupils. One in the eighth grade was Mildred Chambers, now Mildred Krueger, here in class. When Ralph Dennis, the other eighth grader, broke a leg, I stopped by after school at his home to help him with his lessons.

There were two events that the pupils and their families looked forward to. One was an evening program prepared by the teacher with the pupils. After the program we had a box supper. The older girls and ladies had decorated boxes filled with goodies to be auctioned off. Anxiously the girls waited to learn who would be their supper partner. The other event was a basket dinner at the close of the school term. At home Mother helped me prepare for both first and second grade teaching certificates. By the fall of 1923 I had a Limited State Elementary State Certificate, but with only eighteen weeks of college education to my credit.

My second year of teaching was at the one-room school in Bloomfield, Adams County, Illinois. I had 22 pupils and received $75 per month. I boarded with the Edward Dedert family across the road from school, paying them $5 weekly for my board.

During this year I became engaged to marry Wilmer Cornwel1. As few married women were permitted to teach then, I resigned from a job as the primary teacher offered me at Highland School, near Quincy, Illinois, with an $85 monthly salary.

I spent the fall of 1923 at Augusta with my parents helping them as best I could before leaving to marry and live on a farm near Bloomfield.

My parents had called their farm at Augusta the "Cornucopia Farm", a farm on which they hoped to profitably raise livestock, grain, and fruit. They were disappointed though. They had had a lot of building and farm expenses. My brothers were too young to help Father, so he had to rely on a lot of hired help.

Due to both wet and dry seasons, financial reverses, and the Depression after World War I, my father lost the farm. He had a sale and moved back to Adams County to a farm near Adams, Illinois, northeast of Payson, Illinois.

My sister Florence was then teaching in Hancock County at LaHarpe, Illinois. With my parents were Fern, Charles and Byron, who was an eighth grader. In the fall he entered high school at Liberty, Illinois.