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Advertisement Family memories of Alice Marie Maxfield
by Report submitted · December 6th, 2017


I think often of the older generations of my family. My father's parents both died the year I was born. I know only what others have told me about their lives.

My mother was the oldest of 11 children, six boys and five girls. The youngest of these was a son, Raymond. He died in April 1937, one month before his seventh birthday. The last living of her siblings is my Aunt Georgia who died in June of 2016 at the age of 97 in her home in Minnesota.

I was blessed with having known one "grandma" and "grandpa" as well as two great-grandmas and one great-grandpa. My grandmother's mother was Sophia Ellen Sawyer Swartout, born January 1861 and died July 1947, having lived her entire life in Central City, Iowa. I believe I inherited her "short" size.

My other great-grandma, Sarah Alice Newman, was born in Missouri on May 16, 1867. Her father, Thomas A. Newman, died that same year after having served in the war. Family "lore" says she was carried in a "shoebox" when her mother brought her and her then 1-year-old brother back to Iowa on the train. They settled in Toddville near other Newman families. As a young girl, she and a cousin were both raised by an uncle, John Newman and his wife Miranda, who had no children of their own. She was married January 1885 to Michael Leander Brown. They were parents of two sons and three daughters. Only my grandfather, Dillard Brown, survived past the age of 24 years.

In 1935 Mom's parents, along with one daughter and four younger boys, moved from Toddville to the farm on "Alice Road" north of "Midway" to help care for my great-grandpa. He was born May 22, 1863, and died April 26, 1936. He had inherited that 20-acre property from his mother and it stayed in the Brown family until being sold in early 1952. An old copy of his mother's daily record tells how she knit caps, socks, scarves, and mittens for him and others in the neighborhood. Also, how cold it was when her son Mike made trips hauling wood to Cedar Rapids.

With two sets of grandparents living in the same house, what should we kids call them in conversations? Mom and her brothers and sisters called their parents "Ma" and "Dad," so when we four girls were young, we called them "Grandma Ma" and "Grandpa Dad." The great-grandparents became "Older Grandma" and "Older Grandpa." In later years, they became "Grandma Alice" and "Grandpa Mike." Mom's parents then became Grandma and Grandpa Brown. I hope this is not too confusing for you!

I was not yet nine years old at the time, but I remember sitting beside Grandpa Mike at the breakfast table and watching his special way of putting sugar on his cereal. With the spoon in his right hand, sugar dipped from the "sugar bowl," his left hand fingers then gently "tapped" the spoon so the sugar would fall just right over his cereal. I always thought of him and Grandma Alice as being tall. He was a handsome man with black hair (until it turned gray) as well as a mustache. He had a special board cut and trimmed to fit closer to his body so he could play solitaire while in his rocking chair.

He and Grandma Alice both read aloud stories from paperback - "dime westerns." There were several short stories in each issue (sized about 8" x 10") that were passed from one neighbor to another and eagerly awaited.

After dishes were done, we all congregated in the living room, the elders in chairs and the kids on the floor. Grandma Alice's reading was the best! She put so much expression in her voice, one could almost hear the clip clop of the horses hooves, picture in your mind, the dust and sagebrush rolling, feel the wind or rain, and smell the pines. Often the boys would add their own sound effects - "pows" of gunshot, rocks falling, whinnies or snorting of the horses. Imaginations were well developed as well as geography and history.

We had music from wind-up Victrolas. The "Edison" was the first with its heavy thick records and special "needle" arm - also heavy. Then came "modern" players with lighter weight and thinner records. There were extra needles to replace those that eventually got dull.

My sister Nelda and I, along with Aunt Fay - five years older than her - sat on the front porch swing and sang all we had learned from those records. I have since forgotten what most of those songs were. From that front porch, we could see the cars on Center Point Road - Highway 11" at that time - coming north from the curve at "Midway." That was the last chance to get gas until you reached Center Point. It could be five minutes or more before we could see a car cross the bridge, or in the evening see the lights coming north.

There was also a swing with the rope tied onto a limb of one of several pine trees in that front yard. We learned quickly not to go barefoot out there.

I used to play with Grandma's "button box." I sorted buttons by color and size, and crochet hooks from knitting needles. Of course it all got tossed back in so I could do it again the next time I was there. I would then find other buttons had been added. All were saved to be used on some ones shirt or dress. Zippers came along much later.

The farm was the whole family's "get-together" place. After dark, the men and boys might play "hide and seek" in the trees and bushes, the roofs of the sheds, even on the house!

Nelda and I played marbles, or on the carom board with Lee and Charley - called "Jim" at a young age and into adulthood by close friends.

One time at the farm, Grandma Brown asked me to gather the eggs from the barn. Going back to the house, Raymond, the youngest boy (this was in 1936) kept poking me with a stick or pinching and darting in front of me - anything to make me drop the basket or fall and spill it. Either way, the eggs would be broken. I told him to quit or I would break an egg on his head! He didn't, so I did! He went screaming to the house of course. I told Grandma what happened. She didn't scold me and I would bet she didn't scold him either. He was full of mischief - learned from the two older brothers, I'm sure.

Another time, I had stayed at the farm and went to school with Lee and Jim. I was not counted absent as long as I was in school "somewhere." The long lane went east of the barn, through a pasture to the creek. Some kind farmers built a swinging bridge that ended up in another farm yard, then we went across what is now "East Otter Road" to the township #8 school - near the corner of "East Midway Road." That school building was remodeled into a home and is still in use. That bridge was fun for Lee and Jim, but a source of terror for anyone not used to their "antics."

When my grandparents were older and not able to do all that needed to be done, the farm was sold, and a small home was built on my parents' property on North 2nd Street in Robins. They moved into it in June of 1952. That house was later moved to another part of the original property, now 160 North 2nd Street. It had been purchased by their youngest daughter Fay and husband John Van Alst.

Grandpa Dillard Brown was born September 8, 1887, and died March 7, 1967. Grandma Minnie Swartout Brown was born September 11, 1888, and died April 2, 1974.

In my own personal life - I believe I inherited some of Grandma Alice's "stern" patience. The rest of "me" is a combination of Miller and Brown, with my own independence thrown in.
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