The Manuscript of Jenny Shrum

Jeanette “Jenny” Shrum Willett about 1922


When my grandmother, Jenny, was in her 80’s, my cousin Leigh encouraged her to write down her personal stories so that the family would always have it. My grandmother wrote one journal for Leigh’s mother, Jean, and one journal for my mother, Lee. Always practical and thrifty, she used two old calendar books. The one for my mother was from 1964. I’m the keeper of that journal.  I have scanned it and am now transcribing it to give a copy to all of my siblings. I’ll be sharing it here as I transcribe it. I’ve broken it down into parts. It’s good to know if all copies are lost, it will be forever on the Internet. Unless the Internet goes away someday, which in that case, oh well.

Jenny was born August 4, 1897 in Bloomington, Indiana and died March 3, 1988 in Salem, Massachusetts.

Part 1

“For Martha Lee

I wished I had asked more questions of my parents but these are some of the things I remember their telling me.

Dr. Mark Shrum about 1910 in Lynn, Massachusetts

My father was born on a farm in Shoals, Ind. His mother was Martha Horsey and his father Frederick O. Shrum. There is a letter in the family bible telling of his birth and their decision to name him Mark – mainly because it was short & they did not give him a middle name. They both died in their 20’s of malaria – also a baby boy – and my father was taken to an uncle who had 10 children of his own and he was brought up by them. He had to work at an early age on his uncles brick yard. In high school his best friend was Fred Prow (later a dentist in Bloomington). One day they were talking and Fred said he was going to try for the county scholarship to I.U. My father who was quite cocky said, “It’s a good thing I’m not going after it because I would probably get it. Fred laughed at him as tho he didn’t have a chance – so my father went after it and won. He decided previously that he wanted to become a doctor. Once on a visit to a larger city he saw a doctor making his calls in a tall silk hat and he thought that would be great.


The summer before college he and Fred were sitting on a fence outside a dance hall & a very pretty, stylish girl danced by & my father said, “There’s the girl I would like to marry.”

Luta Lee Helton 1893

Soon after he arrived in Bloomington, he was in a store when the same girl went by and he was determined to meet her. He discovered she was Luta Helton,  living with her aunt and was one of the most popular girls around college. He joined Delta Tau fraternity and soon he was taking Luta to the college affairs. Then for some reason he left and went to Montana but before he left he told his roommate, Charles Hartloff, “Take care of Luta while I’m away.” Charlie did that so well that it was not long before Dad heard that they were engaged. Charlie was a weathly boy studying to be a doctor, too. Finally my father had a letter from my mother telling him all the news and at the end a P.S. “By the way Charlie & I have broken up.” It was miles to the nearest R.R. station and it was snowing but my father put barrel stoves on his feet and started walking to the train. When he arrived in Bloomington, Mother was a dance with another boy. He went to the dance, got a dance with her and asked her to marry him that night. He said he would go to her aunt’s & make arrangements. When she returned from the dance he had a minister there, who by the way said the marriage would never last, doing it in such a hurried manner. It did, however for over 50 years. Dad graduated in 1891 then go his MD from Louisville KY where they went the night they were married. He started practice in Ellesttville, Ind. where Merah was born. By that time doctors no longer wore silk hats.”

The newspaper article recounting Mark and Luta’s wedding.

Did you enjoy this? Click below to read Part 2!

Jenny Shrum Willett’s Manuscript – Part 2

I have joined an online challenge by Amy Johnson Crow to write about 52 ancestors in 52 weeks. I’m writing about the prompt “Diary.”  I am hopelessly behind on participating, but Amy says there really is no “behind.” Writing at your pace and getting something out on the page is what is most important.   You can join any time and find all the details here: 

Click here to sign up for the 52 Ancestors Challenge 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *