When the Neighbors are Rich

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.

We get an insight into my grandmother’s world in this entry. She writes about their rich neighbor in Lynn. She also mentions her parents taking them on the trolley to the Treen’s house. Using Google maps and census records, I was able to find the Treen home still standing. It was about 7 miles from where my grandmother and family lived. She talks also about her parents going back to visit Indiana in 1908 and staying with their friends, The Matthews, who were also very rich. I spent a lot of time researching the Matthews family because Mark and Luta gave my grandmother the middle name Matthews. They weren’t related to us, but they were very close friends. And the Matthews were a pretty big deal in Indiana. Matthews and Sons Stone Company was established by John Matthews in the mid 1860’s. In fact, John Matthews was referred to as the father of Indiana limestone. My great grandfather, Mark Shrum, was raised by his paternal uncle, Alfred Shrum, who was a successful brickmaker in Bloomington. It seems likely that the Shrums and Matthews were working colleagues back in their early days. John had 12 children. I’m not sure which Matthew members were friends with Mark and Luta.

Part 5

The grammar, punctuation and any spelling errors are left as Jenny Shrum Willett wrote them. 

Left to right: Merah Shrum, Fred Shrum, Jeanette Shrum in 1908

“Across the street from us lived the weathiest man in Lynn at that time. He had made his barn into a garage with a turn table so the car could be run in, turned around and headed out. When the car was taken out we would go over & play merry go round on that turn table.

In those days no one had baby sitters. When my parents were invited out they took us along. On some Sundays we would take the trolly to our friends the Treens. Merah & I took paper dolls to amuse us while they adults played cards. Then after supper, my father would carry Fred about 4 blocks to the trolly stop & Merah & I would trudge sleepily along.

My father decided to buy a horse & carriages. My mother would call the livery stable and say Hitch Barney to whichever carriage she wanted & he would be delivered to the door. Our house was carpeted thruout & my father decided to buy a vacuum cleaner that had just come on the market. It was a cumbersome affair – a big can on the back of a platform & it took two people to carry it but it was better than sweeping with a broom or beating on the clothes line.

The Matthews family of Elletsville, Indiana in front of their mansion which they called “Grey Mount.” The Matthews were close friends with the Shrums.  This was not the house that the Shrums stayed in when they came to visit from Indiana. The house is still standing and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Photo from the Monroe County Library collection.

We had visitors from Indiana and in those days people really visited – they stayed a month. My parents were anxious to return to Indiana for a visit so they make plans to take the boat from Boston to Norfolk & train from there. It was 1908, my first boat trip, a very rough sea with everyone but us sea sick. The steward called us the Sunny Jim family. The Matthews where we visited were wealthy with maids and house boy and we loved it. Imagine 5 people coming to visit today for a month. Jeanette had a pony and the Matthews had a car & chauffeur. I don’t remember the trip home so it must have been uneventful.”

Did you enjoy this? Click below to read Part 6!

A Trip to Indiana


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 

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