My grandmother, Jeanette Shrum Willett, left us a wonderful handwritten manuscript of her life which she wrote in the mid 1980’s. She was born August 4, 1897 in Bloomington, Indiana and died March 3, 1988 in Salem, Massachusetts. I have been transcribing her manuscript here. You can start from the beginning with Part 1.
In this entry, my grandmother, Jenny Shrum Willett, talks about some of her earliest memories. She was born in Bloomington, Indiana. The osteopath school she mentions her father, Mark, attending was the American School of Osteopathy in Kirksville, Missouri. This school was the first of it’s kind. Mark began attending in 1898. It was a one-year program and cost $500. My grandmother also talks about a tornado. There are newspaper reports of a tornado going through Kirksville, Missouri on April 27, 1899. She would have been 2 years old. It also goes without saying that my grandmother’s reference to her, “colored mammy” should be taken in the context of the time that it was written.
The grammar, punctuation and any spelling errors are left as Jenny Shrum Willett wrote them.
“I was born in Bloomington Aug 4, 1897 on 7th St. My first memory is of a cyclone in Kirksville, Mo. where my father was in the osteopathic college. He had a patient he couldn’t cure, a child with bad back & her father said he was taking her to an osteopath. My father said, “If she comes back cured I shall go & become an osteopath because there are no drugs I know to cure this child.” Well, the child returned cured so my father packed up & took us to Kirksville. I don’t remember the cyclone – just going down into the cyclone cellar where they had shovels & pick axes and all kinds of canned food. My next memory is of Franklin Ky. We had a colored mammy whom we loved very much. She was going to take a leave and visit relatives in Alabama and we were allowed to go to the station to say goodbye. I remember standing on the platform waving to her. The window was open and she was waving a black bordered hankerchief. The wind took it and we ran and picked it up intending to save it til her return. She never came back – took sick and died in Alabama.
At this time my father had offers to teach in Waco, Texas or Boston. He tossed a coin & it came out Boston. We went by train and stayed in a hotel while my parents found a place to live. The first day I was taking a bath when my mother called to come quick. Below our window a hurdy-gurdy was playing the – first I had ever seen. There were no Osteopaths in Lynn so they decided to settle there. Dad could teach while building up his practice. My father put out his sign & left for Boston to teach. When he returned his first patient, a Mrs Brockaway, was waiting in the office and she remained his patient all her life.”
Did you enjoy this? Click below to read Part 4!
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: