THE LIFE STORY OF
A. E. MEISSNER
Narrated by Adolph Elmer Meissner
Composed and written by Calla Ethelyn Adams
Edited by James Elmer Adams
This on-line document is dedicated to
Calla Ethelyn (Meissner)
18 May 1916 - 12 Oct 2003
and to her son
James Elmer Adams
Transcribed 2002 with minor edits by Loren P Meissner
My years of childhood:
Hardships and discovery
I was born in Josephine County, Oregon, about five
miles from the town of
I can remember about the first of March one year, when there was a terrible storm. The rain came steady and then turned into snow. It snowed several days until it was four to six feet high in places. Then the weather turned warm and began to melt the snow. Soon the river began to rise. My father went up to the neighbors who lived above us, to talk about the situation and see what they planned to do. They advised Pa to get his family moved out of down there, as they were sure the river would rise enough to wash his place away. He came back and told Ma what the Booths had said. As much as she hated to leave her home, she agreed. So after making some snowshoes for Mother and Albert (my older brother) we left our home. It was a mile and a quarter up the mountain to the neighbors, and Dillie (my sister just older than Albert) and I had to be carried by our parents.
It snowed again all that night without stopping. The sun came out the next day and began melting the snow. The river began to rise rapidly, and pretty soon it was up to our house. By nightfall our house was in four feet of water. The current was so swift our place was soon washed away, just as Mr Booth had said. The river washed away the house and the barn. The cow, all our hogs, and the chickens were drowned. My father had a heavy long rope he had taken to tie up the neighbors' house to a big oak tree, but the water didn't flood as deep up there. It didn't even get up to their floor.
Before many days all the snow had melted, but we were left without a home. We stayed with the Booths until some time in May. Pa began to build another log house on a higher place on our land. He felt the neighbors were getting tired of us, so he worked like a trooper day and night. He moved us in even though the house wasn't quite finished.
The house was just one big room with a fireplace on one end. Pa had to cut the logs and hew them so they could be placed one on top of another. Then he put clay between the logs to keep the air and moisture out. This process was called 'chunking up.' The fireplace was made of clay and sticks. A row was put together with two sticks of wood side by side and layered with clay. Layer upon layer of sticks and clay were laboriously put together, until at last the fireplace was completed.
After getting us all settled into the new place, Pa began to grub off the soil. Most of the days it would be raining while he worked. He would be right out there in the cold drizzle, trying to get rid of the thick undergrowth of bushes to get enough land cleared for a garden. He worked awfully hard all that spring. Finally he got enough of the best part of the land ready for cultivation and planting.
On one corner of our land was a little valley with a spring that ran out of the side of the mountain. This formed into a small creek that ran through our place to the land below us. Pa could have built a reservoir if he had wanted to. Some of the land was pretty good, and we raised lots of beautiful raspberries and strawberries. Pa also planted some oats so the horses would have hay. All in all, we had a pretty good living. Sometimes Pa worked out for other people and brought in a little money.
We kids were like a bunch of wild Indians. Sometimes we used to go up into the mountains and have a great time, when school wasn't in session. We had to walk about three miles to school. I wasn't very old then, about in the first grade. In the fall when the weeds and undergrowth went to seed, my feet would get all scratched up and full of stickers, and I would cry. I only got one pair of shoes a year. I'd get a pair in the late fall when cold weather began, and they would have to last until the next year.
fall, Pa would go with two or three of the neighbor men deer hunting. They
I was only about eight years old when I helped get wood for the cook stove. On Saturdays we'd go up into the woods and saw and split wood for Mother to use over the next week. One day we found an old wagon that had wooden wheels, and we used it to haul the wood down to the house. The wagon was one the Ringling Brothers neighbors used and for some reason left behind.
Pa raised a lot of berries and garden stuff down on the piece of land that had been flooded out. He would haul these to the people at the quartz mines. He did this for three years. It was a long hard trip to the Green Back Mine. He made pretty good money, but it was hard on him and rough on our horses.
Pa was plowing one day with the high spirited team, when one of them got the tug caught over her leg. It scared her, and she began to tear around. All of a sudden both horses started running. Pa had the lines tied around his back so he could pull one way or the other (depending on which way he wanted them to turn) and he could still have his hands free to hold the plow handles. They pulled him over and drug him along the ground a long way. The horses got clear down to where the creek ran through our place forming a huge mud hole. Pa struggled to get the lines off, and just in time. They ran right through the mud hole, dragging the plow clear down the road. The team got to an old tree lying on the ground with a big snag on it, and Topsy got close enough to it that she got her hind leg hooked into it. It nearly tore her leg off. Pa hated to do it, but he had to shoot her. We couldn't get by with one horse, so Pa went to Grant's Pass to buy another one. He looked around a long time and found a grey one he liked. We named her Meg. She was really a nice horse, so gentle we could ride her. Pa used to drive Pete and Meg to the mines with the produce and berries we raised.
There were some English people who lived on beyond us quite a ways. He was a blacksmith. I used to like to go over there and watch him pound on the red hot anvil, and watch the sparks fly. He'd shoe horses and sharpen plow shears. I'd watch him for hours.
One time Albert and I went on up to their house, and I waited by the gate. I had been waiting a long time when I suddenly noticed some sound. I heard a slight noise behind me, and looked around to see a big black dog sneaking up on me. He had put one foot down and then the other real careful to surprise me. When I saw him, I jumped through the gate and locked it so he couldn't get to me. He barked and barked and showed his teeth, but finally gave up and left. As soon as he left, I ran back and found Albert.
One time we had the horses staked out near some yellow jackets' nest. We tried to hurry and get the horses untied, but we stirred up the yellow jackets and they stung us and the horses. That was a painful experience we didn't soon forget.
Another time we rode the horses over to the evergreen glade about a half mile from the house. We took them over there to pasture when we didn't need to use them. We saw a couple of big wild boars that were fighting up on the hill. We took off in a hurry. The next day when we came back to get the horses, we saw one of the boars lying dead on the ground. The other one had killed him and gone on to join the pack.
I used to
like to look off in the distance at the big snowy Siskiyou Mountains when I
was little. I made up a little song that I used to sing about them. Part of
it, I remember, went something like, "A big white sow in the
Oh! Woods of the West, sleepy woods that I love,
Where few of the long days have heard
The prayers of the wind in the branches above,
and the tremulous song of the bird.
Where the clustering bloom of the dogwood hang,
Or the white stars through the dusk of the pines,
Down the dim aisles of the old forest pour
Sunbeams that melt into wine.
I long, how I long to be there
and dream in that region of rest,
Far apart from all the worries of men,
In those wonderful woods of the West.
My father was an infidel and my mother a spiritualist since childhood. They were great on going to the dances and went a lot. They would put some straw in the back of the wagon for us children to ride on, and drive into Merlin and other places for the dances. My father was quite a square dance caller. They would stay until two or three in the morning. When we got tired we would climb up in the wagon and cover up with quilts and go to sleep on the straw. After we built the new house, we had a big dance there.
just a short time after this that the
One day Sister Clark came up to see my mother. She talked and visited with Ma, and got her interested in going to the revival meetings. Of course, all my mother had ever known was spiritualism. Her mother had been a medium. I remember seeing my grandmother lay her hands on a table, and it would tip up. I could hear the knocking of the spirits on the floor above us. When I was small, they used to have some of their spiritualist meetings at our house.
Ma finally agreed to go to the revival, and after a few meetings she was saved. Pa was strictly against it and wouldn't go. Ma went off to the meetings with the Clarks one Sunday, and Pa and we boys went down to the lower place to dig potatoes. We had a big Irishman working for us to help dig the potatoes. His name was Hal Hasty. He slept in the barn. We had been digging potatoes all morning and were on our way back up to the house. It was about a mile up there, on the main road that branched off to go to our place. Along came Brother Bew and another preacher, with Ma beside them in the buggy. When she saw us, she got out and was going to ride on up to the house with us. Pa told her, "Go on with them old preachers!" Mother just walked along on home behind our wagon, with Pa cursing about the preachers the whole way.
Things kept getting worse, and after about a week of this misunderstanding between them, something began to happen. We found out later that Brother Bew had been so burdened for Pa that he had gone out behind his barn and prayed and prayed until he felt the burden lift. About this time, Pa came in the house and told Ma he thought for sure he must be going to die. "Then you'd better pray," Mother said. Pa said, "I never prayed in all my life and I can't pray now." He had cursed the preachers and called them names; still Mother kept asking, "Don't you think we had better send for Brother Bew?" Finally he consented, and Mother sent us boys out to get him.
In the meantime, before Brother Bew arrived, Pa told Ma to take the tobacco off the shelf and throw it in the fireplace. We used to have to go into town and get him some before he ran out, so that was quite a change. Before long Brother Bew came, and he got down by Pa's chair in the front room and began to tell him what to do to be saved. He opened up his little New Testament and read to him. They prayed quite a long while.
Soon the people all over the county had heard that Pa had been saved. They said, "If Meissner can get saved, there must be something in religion!" From that time on, our lives began to change. A few evenings afterward, I was out in the kitchen cussing around, and Mother took me by the arm and said, "Listen here, don't you ever let me hear you swear again!" We kids had been used to hearing Pa swear so much, we didn't think anything of it. I wondered what was happening to Ma and Pa, but I was careful after that.
This was the beginning of our family's career as Christians. My folks were Christians until the day they died, and Lottie and I have followed their example. They were called "saints" in those days, and believe me, many were persecuted by unbelievers. Even we children went through some hard times because of our family's stand. I remember, one time the neighborhood bully found out about our watermelon patch, and out of pure meanness slashed and broke the melons all over the ground. I sure felt sad when I saw them. It seemed like there were so many wicked people in that part of the country and so few who believed in God.
In spite of some hardships, this place where I was born, and where I lived for the first nine or ten years of my life, was filled with many happy memories for me.
We stayed there on the old homestead quite a while. I don't know for sure exactly how long it was. Then Pa heard about a place he could rent over on Grave Creek, on the other side of the mountain toward the mines. He figured, if he could get closer to the mines, he wouldn't have to make such long trips with his garden stuff. He never had any trouble selling what he took there. The women used to come down out of their houses that were built on the sides of the mountains, and carry away everything Pa had brought. The women would be yelling, "Don't take it all, save some for me!" Fresh garden vegetables and fruit were a scarcity out at the mines.
On the morning of the move, we got up early and loaded all our belongings on the wagons. I remember it was a cold morning, with frost covering the ground. We started out with the team and wagon, and away we went, never to see the old home place again. I wanted Pa to save it for me but he wouldn't do it.
I soon felt at home over at Grave Creek. It was over the mountains quite a ways, about twenty miles and through a big valley. It was wild country. Not many people lived around there, and those who did were three to four miles apart. There were a lot of wildcats and cougars in the surrounding woods.
The place we moved to was called Espey ranch. It was a good little farm. My father raised a garden and fields of alfalfa. We stayed about three years there. Pa made pretty good money. He used to have a big old buckskin purse. After he had been to the mines selling his produce, he would come home at night and pour out his money on the table and count it. Instead of green paper money, it was all five and ten dollar gold pieces.
I used to
enjoy going to the mines with
There was an old man living near the mine who had a talking crow. Once in a while Pa and I would stop there and talk and listen to his pet crow.
There was a nice big orchard on the Espey ranch. Sometimes the wild hogs would come up into the orchard to get the apples. Our dog Jack would hear them and get after them, grabbing them by the ears. We called the hogs "rail splitters," because they would squeeze between the fence rails. One time I was down at the lower end of the alfalfa field when I heard the dog barking. I ran down to where Jack was to see what all the commotion was. He had a bunch of wild hogs cornered beneath some old pine trees that had been cut down and were lying in a pile. I got up on top of the pile and looked down in between the branches and saw them huddled together. I got a stick and poked them in their backs. Boy! They really squealed and made an awful noise. Finally I got tired of that kind of fun and ran off home.
There was a big sugar pine tree just below the barn. I liked that big old tree. One day some fellows came and cut it down. The place never seemed the same to me after that. The blue jays used to fly up in that tree, and then fly down to the corn crib and steal corn. We boys used to fool away many an hour trying to catch those blue jays. We made a long noose from string and put some corn in the middle of it. The birds would fly down to get the corn, and while they were pecking at it we would pull the string and catch them. Sometimes we'd get them by the back. One time a huge flock of Carrier pigeons flew down in the branches of the big pine tree, just filling it completely. Where they came from I don't know, because pigeons didn't live in that part of the country.
One day we went down to the barn, and we saw a couple of little striped animals in the hay. We got some sticks and went after them and killed them. I don't know where our smellers were. Later when we went up to the house Ma said, "Where have you been? You smell like skunks!" We had our woolen underclothes on that Ma had made for us. We took them off, and she gave us a good scrubbing. I don't know what became of the underwear, but we never wore it again.
Another time I did a foolish thing. Pa and Ma had gone to Grant's Pass and left Albert, Dillie, and me home alone. Albert said he'd make us some candy. He got a dish and some sugar and stuff, and put everything in the pan and got it boiling. Then he put some horehound in it. If you haven't seen any pieces of horehound, it is made by squeezing the juice from the leaves of the horehound plant. He had just finished cooking it and took it off the stove, when I said to him, "I wonder if it's still hot?" Albert replied, "Well, stick your finger in it and see." So I did, and of course it stuck to my fingers and burned me pretty bad. I went around crying for quite a while after that.
One morning, Albert and Louie and I went to the Worling boys' place to spend the day. We started out early with our bags of marbles. It was about three miles over the hills to their place. We played all day and had a big time together. The sun began to get low before we started for home. The shadows were getting deep in the valleys and gorges. The Worling boys went a little ways with us on our way home, and then turned back.
As we traveled apart from each other, they would holler and we would answer back, as long as we could hear each other. Finally their voices faded away. Before long, we heard some yelling again and so we answered. This went on for a while, until it seemed to come closer to us. It sounded like it was in one of those deep gorges. I thought it was strange how the voice could be so close, when we had told our friends goodbye so far back. Finally, when we got up near the top of a big hill, we came into an evergreen glade enclosed in a grassy meadow. We heard the holler closer now. It sounded different and strange, and we were scared! So we started to run as fast as we could on over the glade and on up to the very top of the hill. Then we heard the holler again. It seemed to be following us, so we ran down the opposite side of the hill toward home. We heard it once again from behind us as we ran, but that was the last time. It's a good thing we finally got sense enough to realize it wasn't our friends but a wild animal's call. It must have been a cougar. That was a pretty frightening experience for me. I don't understand how our parents could trust us to go so far from home by ourselves in such a wild country. There were some pretty fierce animals living in those parts.
We had a neighbor by the name of Corduroy. He was a ditch walker, hired by the sluice miners to patrol the ditches above the mines. He had a son my age, and I went up to play with him one day. On my way home, I came to a log and walked across it. I noticed, through a hole rotted away through the log, two fat little wild pigs. I looked at them for a while and left, for I knew the old sow wouldn't be very far away from them.
We had many an experience there on the Espey ranch. The stage stopped there to change the horses before starting on up over the mountains. The place was for sale, and Pa could have bought it. He could have made a good living there, but he let someone else buy it right out from under him. So then we had to look for another place to move.
Pa hunted around, and finally located a place to rent near Gold Hill. It was known as the McClelland farm. It was a big place. There were about two hundred acres, but it was poor land. It took several trips to get us moved up there.
We loaded both wagons with hogs, and started to take them up there one evening. We had to go over the mountains. I couldn't have been more than twelve years old. I was driving four horses with as big a load as Pa, and Pa expected as much of me almost as a man, it seemed.
When I got nearly to the top of the mountain, I fell asleep. The horses just kept on going along the road, until they came to the top of the mountain where the stages stopped to change horses. There was a shed off on this little side road, where the stage driver pulled in in bad weather to change horses. My team pulled up in there and stopped, and this woke me up. I hurried and gathered up my lines and got started down the road again. I could hear Pa's wagon bumping along in the distance ahead of me as he made his way down the mountain. I was afraid he would get so far ahead of me I wouldn't know which road to take when I got to the fork. He never stopped once to see how I was coming. When I got to where the road turned off, I could tell which way to turn by the sound of his wagon. After about an hour I finally caught up to him.
morning we stopped about ten o'clock and fed and watered the horses. Then we
ate and rested a while at a little place beside a creek. After we refreshed
ourselves, we hitched the horses to the wagons and drove on until we reached
the McClelland place. To get there we had to pass through the little town of
Gold Hill and continue on up the river that ran through
In spite of the poor land, Pa raised one field of pretty good corn. He fattened a bunch of pigs with the corn, and sold them for about what the corn would have brought. It seemed like he didn't have such good judgment sometimes. Or else it was just tough breaks.
Another time he bought a baler and got a school teacher to run it, and he made some money baling hay for people. This was during the summer months when school was out. I got awfully tired of driving the poor horses around, and the horses got mighty tired too. They had to walk all day long up and down. Pa hired another man to pitch hay into the baling machine.
an awfully poor living on this place, so Pa decided to go somewhere else. He
wrote to some people by the name of Peterson, who lived in
After some days of travel, we came to a little town way out in the wilderness where they raised lots of sheep. It was at this little town that Ma got sick. We had to stop and stay there for a while. Ma had twins, but they didn't live. She really had a rough time and almost died herself.
After about two weeks, she was able to walk again, but she was not feeling well enough to travel in the wagon. There was no railroad running through this town, so Pa took Ma to the nearest railroad town to send her on ahead. Dillie went along to help care for the younger children: Lillian, Paul, Carrie, Charlie, and Manly; while Louie, Albert, and I went with Pa in the wagons.
We met Ma
We stayed on that farm that winter, and Pa got some jobs plowing land for some of the big land owners who were Christian saints in that part of the country. It didn't freeze hard enough to make the ground solid, so Pa was able to earn our living all winter long.
The next spring, we moved to a place called the Sothe farm. It was 360 acres. We plowed that land, and planted most of it to oats. The school house was located on the Sothe farm, but I didn't get to go to school much, as I had to plow like a hired hand. I ran one team and Pa the other. We had to plow the ground and disk and seed it. Somehow we got it all planted. We also had a good vegetable garden, and a place to raise hogs. We had a fine bunch of porkers there, and did pretty well on this place. There was a nice big orchard and a good house with a barn on the Sothe farm. There were a lot of ground squirrels from the surrounding woods, and we used to have trouble with them cutting off the oats and wheat along the edge of the fields. I used to trap them and kill them with poison bait, and sometimes shoot them with my twenty-two.
I had five sheep, a buck and four ewes, of my own. One time I heard the wolves howling, and I thought they were after the sheep. I hurried out to the pasture land and looked around. I spotted the sheep, when all of a sudden I saw something all crouched up, out of the corner of my eye. It looked like a wolf ready to pounce on me. I yelled for Albert but no sound came out, I was so dumbfounded with fear. Then I saw that it was our little dog. I thought he was tied up down by the house. He was just waiting for me to say something to him before he hopped up to me. I was pretty scared that time. Another time the sheep got too far away over in the field, and the wolves killed one of them.
One winter I got a new pair of skates. I was so proud of them, and could hardly wait for the ice to form so I could try them out. When I finally did, the ice was so thin it gave way when I started across, and I broke through it and fell into the icy water. I thought I was going to drown! Every time I tried to get out, the edge of the ice would break off and down I'd go again. Somehow I managed to get out, but I lost both of my new skates. I had to walk about a mile and a half home. When I got there, my clothes were frozen stiff on me. I thought sure I would be sick, but the exercise of walking kept me warm.
It was while we were on the Sothe place that my mother got awfully sick. She always weighed close to two hundred pounds, but in a few months' time her weight dropped down to ninety pounds. She couldn't keep any food in her stomach. No one seemed to know what to do for her. Everyone had given her up to die, because in those days we didn't have doctors like we do now. We just trusted the Lord to cure what we thought might be cancer. Finally Mother called for the elders of the church to come and anoint her with oil and pray. After she was prayed for, she went up to the neighbors' the very next day, and ate a regular farmers' dinner: meat and potatoes and everything. Her stomach didn't bother her after that.
not long after she was healed that we moved from there, taking with us Edith
and Percy -- the Sothe farm was their birthplace. They are the only two who
were born in
Monroe, a saint preacher, and his wife and two sons came into town in their
covered wagon while we were living at the Sothe farm. I'm not sure where they
came from. Their oldest son was named Ed. He was a common laborer. He'd work
at any job he could get. The younger brother was a school teacher. Ma got it
into her head that it was time Thalia (nicknamed Dillie) got a man. She was
close to twenty years old and Ma thought Ed would make her a good husband.
Mrs Monroe got together with Ma and talked things over and got Dillie
interested in Ed. It wasn't too long afterward that they got married. The
Mr Sothe died suddenly one day, and his son took over. He wanted to run the farm, so we had to get off. We moved back to Brother Neal's place again, down by the creek, and lived there a short time.
not content there. He talked with some men who were going to
left, we had an auction sale. Our furniture didn't amount to much, but we had
a little farm machinery and our horses to sell. With the money, we packed our
personal belongings and bought train tickets for
After a long
ride on the train, we pulled into the depot with a lot of hungry little kids.
Pa went to buy some bread and butter for us to eat. The butter stuck to the
roof of our mouths, and we didn't like it. We learned that the butter had
been made from the cream of cows that had been eating cottonseed meal.
Compared to the beautiful part of the country we had lived in, this place
seemed like dried up desert country. I asked Pa, "Why on earth did you
ever bring us way down here to such a place? How are we ever going to make a
living here?" After looking around and talking it over with Ma, they
decided maybe I was right. So we got on the train again, and went down by the
We met a man by the name of McGinnis who had come into town with a load of fresh garden stuff. This was the kind of food we liked, and he found us to be good customers. Mr McGinnis owned a small cattle ranch and raised garden produce to sell. When he found out we knew how to raise vegetables, he asked, "Why don't you come out with me to my place? I have two places out there. One has a good big log cabin no one is living in. You can farm the land around it on shares."
So we went out to live on the McGinnis place. We planted peanuts, corn, and some sugar cane. We bought a couple of cows from McGinnis, but they were wild cattle. They weren't like the cows we were used to milking. We worked with them to train them. After they had their calves, they were tame enough to milk. One day the calf got away and went just like a jack rabbit lickety bang across the pasture land. We chased after him. We must have run about five miles when we finally caught up to him and brought him back home.
Before too long, our money ran out and we were desperate for something to eat. Pa went to the store in town to see if they would let him have some food on credit. They turned him down, so he was forced to sell his walking plow. While Pa was at the store making his trade, Louie and I went out to hunt a jack rabbit for supper. We walked and walked, looking everywhere. Finally one jumped out of the bushes. I took a shot at him, and down he went. I was so happy I laid my gun down and went over to my brother and gave him a great big hug. We picked up the rabbit and took it home to Ma. That night, the family ate black eyed peas and stewed rabbit.
Pa thought he should try to hunt up a job. He went to a little town near by and looked around, but couldn't find anything. A day or two later we got a job picking up potatoes. They were the first crop of early potatoes, and we made a little money that way. After about six or eight months of living here, we got up and left the place.
It was a
hard life there, but being boys we had a good time too. The wild cattle
weren't used to people being around. When we would walk into town, they'd
come up near us and start gathering in big herds around us. It's a wonder
they didn't trample us down. We used to have a lot of fun down by the edge of
In a way
I hated to leave there, but we wanted to find a place to live where there
wasn't so much rain. It poured down three times on our way to where a
Pa heard about a man who had a bee farm, so I went to work for him. He paid me a dollar and a half plus my board and room. Pa moved the rest of the family on quite a ways from there, to a place called a 'jack farm.' This was a 160 acre place with very poor land, where they raised male donkeys. I decided not to work too hard on the bee farm, as I wasn't getting paid much. I was sick of the place anyway, so I asked the guy to pay me the money I had earned. All he would give me was a gallon of honey.
It must have been a good fifteen miles to the jack farm where the folks were. I started out early the next morning. It was about noon when a fellow came along in a fancy surrey drawn by a fine horse. He stopped and asked me where I was headed. When I told him, he said, "You've got a long way to go yet; you'd better get in." So I rode along with him for about five miles. I told him my father had been a gardener, and what he was doing now. "Well," he said, "we are opening up a big piece of land down at Agua Dulce. I wonder if he'd come down there and see what he could raise?" So I told Pa, and he went to see the fellow. His name was Branks. He was a cotton raiser. He owned some stores and other small businesses. Mr Branks told Pa there were two houses on the place, and that Pa could have the little one to live in while experimenting to see what could be grown down there.
We soon grew tired of Agua Dulce, so like a bunch of gypsies we loaded our belongings into the wagon and away we went. Louie and I drove the wagon, pulled by two mules. Pa and Ma had gone on ahead with the children on the train. We pulled into a town where a couple had just been married. The townspeople were giving them a big shivaree. In the confusion of the celebration, the groom shot into the crowd and a woman was killed.
We wanted a place to stay and to feed our mules, but couldn't find any place. Someone told me about an old man who had a little farm down by the river out on the edge of town, where we might be able to stay. It was all our little old mules could do to drag their legs along to get down there. The man was real good to us and fed our mules and let us stay over night. The next morning we got up and started on our way again.
We went for a ways, and I began to have the feeling we were lost. So when we came to the next farm, I decided to ask directions. I let myself into the yard. The place was all fenced in. It didn't seem like anyone was around, but I went up to the door and knocked. A strange feeling came over me, so I turned and had started back for the gate. Around the corner came a couple of vicious dogs. Boy, did I run for the gate. I slammed it shut just in the nick of time. They jumped against the gate and growled and showed their teeth. I was lucky to get out of there when I did. I got back into the wagon pretty shaken up, and we drove on. We came to another place, and they said, "Yes, you are on the wrong road." They told us how to cur across to get back out to the right road.
We came through one part of the country that was a new settlement. They were all Germans, who were opening up the land and building houses. Se talked with some of them before going on our way.
When we located Pa and Ma, we found them out there in the wilderness just like a bunch of wild Indians. Pa was cooking a rabbit. He had put dough over it and then wrapped mud over the dough, and put it down in the ground on some coals and covered it to bake it. After it was baked by the red hot coals, he pulled it out of the hole and peeled off the clay and the dough, and it really tasted good. Ma wanted to borrow some cups from the people Pa was going to work for, but they told us to go cut some empty tin cans for cups. That really hurt Ma's feelings. She said, "They must think we're a bunch of Indians or something." Anyway, we moved up into their little old place. Pa worked at trying to raise some garden vegetables, and Louie and I worked for the boss on the farm. We drove a team and three mules, and plowed a lot of that new ground for them.
There used to be storms they called 'northers.' Cold winds and heavy clouds would sweep down on that part of the country. We could hear the sound of it coming, and we would say, "Here comes another norther." How the rain would come down out of those clouds! The men dug big holes and piled the dirt up around to form banks to catch the water in as it rained. Thus when the dry weather came they could water the stock and have water for their gardens. This was really cattle country though, not farming land. They were experimenting with the idea of raising cotton, and tried to get the ground in shape for it.
During the times when the 'northers' came, Louie and I would get a box of shells and take the gun and go to the water holes. There we would wait under the trees and in the bushes, and watch for the ducks to come. They would fly in great bunches, and light down on the water. We would bang away at them, and sometimes get two or three with one shot. Frightened, they would rise up and fly around, and soon they would come back. It was almost as good as having ducks in your own back yard. We would shoot all we could carry home. We had to be careful of our shells though, as we could only afford a couple of boxes a month. We saw a lot of quail and jack rabbits, but didn't bother killing the rabbits what with all the ducks.
I remember one time we went hunting, and rode on the mules. My gun stock somehow got down to where it rubbed and bounced against the back of my mule, and he began to buck and jump. This made me think of a post card I had received from someone that read, "When among the cactus, keep your seat." It sure would have been bad to have been thrown off, but I hung on.
It was open range country there, and the cattle would come down and get into the lot where we kept the mules and their feed. One time we tried to catch one of those big old longhorn steers. We got a rope around him in back of his front legs, and I got up on him. His horns stuck way out on each side and looked so big! He bucked one way and I went the other and fell on the ground.
It was about half a mile from where we lived to where we worked. We would get up about daylight and leave for work, not returning until dark. There were a lot of rattlesnakes around. We always carried a stick as we walked along, for generally we'd see or hear them on the trail. Sometimes we'd kill them but most of them would get away when we banged at them with our sticks.
from Dillie now and then. They only stayed in
Lottie Wing and her parents came to
didn't settle in
In May 1910, Lottie and I were married. Pa Wing bought a forty acre piece of land in Woodsboro with big oaks on it. The ground was poor, but we plowed up a little of it with the little old horse Pa bought. We planted some cotton, but it didn't amount to much and we never bothered to pick it. Pa and I cut down some of the oak trees, and cut them up into firewood to sell in town. Mother and Grandma Wing helped make the living by doing laundry for the town hotel and for some of the townspeople.
One day we were down town selling some wood, and I happened to see the real estate man talking with some fellow. I said to Pa Wing, "There goes the real estate man with some guy. Maybe he'd buy your place, and we could get out of here!"
"Naw, I don't think we could," Pa exclaimed.
insisted, "Let's go over and talk to him anyway." After we talked
to them for a while, the man seemed interested. He said, "It sounds just
like what I've been looking for." He explained that he was a well digger
and was working in
We found a place to rent and moved in. When spring came, we plowed and planted some corn, beans, and potatoes. We had a cow and a pig, and we were getting along pretty well. Then along came summer and a long hot dry spell. One day a big swarm of grasshoppers blackened the sky. We lived at the foot of a hill, so when they swooped down to land they ended up in the neighbors' fields beyond us. They ate the cornstalks clear down to the stubble.
morning, Pa Wing came over and said, "We are going back to
like the thought of leaving, because I thought we were doing pretty good.
When I told him I didn't want to go, he almost cried. So I finally agreed to
the move. We sold out, and I got back the four hundred dollars I had invested
in the place. Mother and Grandma Wing made a nice lunch for me to eat on the
way in the boxcar. They went on ahead with Pa Wing, on the train. I made it
pretty good with the horses as far as
Mother and I rented a little house on what was called Flanagan Row. It was named this I guess because a policeman owned a lot of little houses along there. We got settled in, and I went out to look for work. I found a job unloading coal. I was sure tired that night, and Mother began to have pains. Our first child was about to arrive with just Grandma Wing for a midwife. She had hard labor and it was a long time before Eldred was born.
I worked at whatever I could find around there for a while, and then I decided I was going to be a carpenter. I had worked along with Albert enough to know a little about it. So I went to see an old man who was building a house, and he hired me. I worked for him until he finished his place. Then I went to see a couple of men who were starting a contracting business, and they hired me. I worked for them for six or eight months, when I heard about a big contractor in town by the name of Johnny Hansen who was hiring men. I got a job with him, and worked for Mr Hansen for several years.
saved enough money to buy a lot out on the edge of town, on Fourth and
spring, I decided to build a new house. I borrowed eleven hundred dollars at ten
dollars a month interest. I tore the old house down after I built the new
one. Eugene and Ethelyn were born there. Later we traded our house off for a
piece of barren land up north of
I quit my
job with Mr Hansen, and we went to the place up north. It had sixty acres,
with a creek running through part of it. It was about ten miles from
I built a little sod barn by the bank along the creek, for the livestock. We had a cow or two, and some pigs. We named our horses Jick and Dolly. Jick was kind of a high spirited horse. One afternoon, Mother was driving Eldred and Eugene home and was near the creek crossing, when she lost the reins. The buggy sank down into the water up to the floorboards on the inside. Mother was helpless with the small boys, but Dolly saw the danger and pulled on Jick, and somehow they managed to get out of there safely.
I worked out doing odd carpenter jobs that winter. When spring came I cleared off the land and planted potatoes. I took two big loads of spuds into town to sell. That was the only way I had to make money. The following winter we were almost destitute. Somehow, the Lord took care of us.
Pa and Ma
wing came from
We had some nice oak trees on the place there, and Pa and I cut firewood and sold it to the schoolhouse.
were a lot of German families moving in around that part of
a place on the north edge of
I got a
job for a sash and door factory at first, and then I worked as a laborer at
Merlin was born during the time everyone had influenza. The epidemic was just after the first World War, and many lives were lost, including little Merlin's. We were all down sick with it when he was born. The preacher and Frank took care of things for us.
and Elmer were both born at this place too. Elmer was just a baby when the railroad
went on strike that winter. While the men were on strike, I was busy building
a house on our new land. We traded our place on
just finished the foundation, when it began to freeze up. It got pretty cold before
I had the place completed. There was another big snowstorm there on
That spring the strike was over. The men had lost, but the Company told us we could come back to work on their terms. I was sure glad to get my job back.
lived on the acreage, my brother Charlie came to visit from
the summer of twenty-four when we received the tragic news of my mother's
death. She and Pa were with a realtor going to see a piece of property to buy
The next year, Mother and I had our last son born at home. He was our seventh boy, and we named him Manley after my brother. Hazel helped Mother with the delivery. Manley was born on his mother's birthday, 09 Mar 1925.
came to visit us and Hazel and Manly, after Ma passed away. I think he went
on up to see Lillian too, in
Little Manley took sick when he was just past three years old, and we lost him 04 May 1928. We never really knew what caused the trouble. Nowadays the doctors could have pumped his stomach and no doubt saved him.
weeks later, we got a pass on the railroad and took the family to
railroad talked of moving the car repair department to the
the depression years when we went to the 80. Times were hard for everyone.
Lots of people lost their homes and farms. Eldred left for
began to pick up after I got called back to the railroad to work piece work off
and on. I drove back and forth weekends to
Jeanette was two, I got a railroad pass, and Mother and I took her and went
to visit Lillian and family and also Pa and his new wife. We left Edythe and
the boys home with Ethelyn to look after them. It was during the winter, and
they had school and there were chores to do. They got along fine, and we had
a good trip. This was the last time I saw
Walter Adams were married in September of 1936, and they lived on the 80 for
a couple of months afterward. Mother and the girls came to
back to the 80 to live permanently and it was the biggest blessing that ever
came to us. The depression ended about this time, when
summer of 1939 we left Earl to look after the farm. We took Wesley along to
owned a nursery in
the house in
Ethelyn, and their three children came to
going to college in Grinnell and driving back and forth. Jeanette was with us
for a while, but it wasn't long until she went out to
having a big farm auction, we loaded up our pickup and came to
After we finished Walter's house, I bought a lot across the street on Leroy and built a little place. We lived there for a short while, but we wanted to get a place where we could raise a few chickens and have a cow. That old farm life was still running through our veins.
five acres on Baseline near the
bought a house and moved it to the land space between our two homes. Eugene
and his family came to visit from
Eventually, the work of bottling the milk to sell became more work than pleasure for Mother, and we sold the cow. We missed our fresh milk and home-churned butter; however we kept the chickens and enjoyed the good eggs. I began to do some fix-it work for people, and opened a small business in my garage. I kept busy enough to occupy myself with trips to the auction sales in the area. I really enjoyed those trips to the sales.
We did pretty well, until Mother got a sick spell in the fall of 1968. We learned later it was probably a little heart attack or a slight stroke. She fell in the barnyard while gathering the eggs. She was in bed afterward for about a week. A little later, we took her to the hospital for another week for a thorough checkup. She got better and seemed to be alright again.
Just before Christmas the following year, a couple of young black fellows forced their way into our house and knocked her to the floor. They beat up on me and then robbed us. This had a terrible effect on her nerves. Mother began to go downhill after that, a little at a time.
our place and the rental next to it to Elmer, and moved back to the house on
Ethelyn still looked after ordering and the making up of our medicine, as well as what running around on business was necessary for us.
We were doing quite well, when Mother fell in the middle of the night, Nov 19. The X-rays showed a cracked pelvis. Of course this meant she had to lie quiet for as long as it took to heal. We are just living on borrowed time anyway, and our lives are in God's hands. He alone knows what our few remaining days hold in store for us.
We have had a good full life and a good family, with much to be thankful for. I am almost 83 now, as I recall these experiences of my life. Perhaps it will be kind of nice to read about the road of life your Father and Mother traveled, and compare it to your own, perhaps to recall parts of it you shared with us along the way.
Life has changed so. It is so much different from when I used to work ten-hour days for a dollar. Still, through it all, we didn't think too much of it. We took one day at a time, to live and enjoy life.
We will soon be leaving this old world, so I'll tell you children and whoever may read this :--
Goodbye for now. Some day we'll meet, over yonder.
[signed] A.E. Meissner
Postscript: 1973 — Trip to
(by Ethelyn Adams)
After our mother passed away, our father missed her so much! But surprisingly, with the help of the lord he held up real well. I was truly proud of him. He had always seemed to lean on Mother to encourage him through hard places. Now at last he knew what it meant to lean completely on God.
to talk to him right away about going up to Merlin
enjoyed the scenery along the way and the visiting as we drove each day. We
came into Sam’s Valley before Grant’s Pass and drove out to the farm where
Aunt Lillian was born. He was able to go right to it. The original barn was
still standing. We had a nice picnic lunch along the
quite a hard time finding the old homestead Grandpa Meissner had taken from
the government back in 1899. We went to the court house in Grant’s Pass the
following day and got a map showing the original homestead location and so
was finally able to locate it. What a thrill it was for our father to stand
once again on the land where he was born and where the little old log cabin
stood which was later washed down the river. You could just see it all came
back to him fresh and real, as he stood there looking at the Rogue where it
curved around when it came up to the foot of the bluff on his right. There
were still peach orchards there on the bottom land. We saw an elderly man up
in one of the trees thinning the peaches. I went over to him and asked if he
had ever heard of the Meissners. “Oh yes indeed,” he said. “That gulch or low
place in the bluffs over there,” he pointed to the north, “is still known as
Meissner’s Gulch.” He said his name was Lester Ford and his father had
homesteaded the piece of land next to the Meissners. He was pleased to meet
our father. They had quite a visit together! He was about ten years younger,
but he recalled his parents telling of the big flood and speaking of the
Meissner family. He showed us one original peach tree still standing which
had been from a shipment of fruit trees from
Father asked if he knew of the family by the name of Avery. There was a girl named Queen who went to school with him that lived near them. Lester said she had inherited her folks’ land and only just recently sold it and was living now in Grant’s Pass. He told us where to find her. We called her and then after lunch went to visit her and get her picture with our father. What a time they had recalling past events.
tried to find the road leading back up into where the second log cabin had
been built on higher ground, but the brush and undergrowth had covered the
road that had not been in use since the cabin itself had been destroyed by
fire, probably thirty years ago. Walter and he tried to walk back up in there
we urged him on to see a few more places and people since we had come that
far. We drove right by Grave Creek north of Merlin on our way to
visited Albert’s daughter Vivian Foley in
got back down the coast to Arcata, Calif and Charlie Meissner’s, he was
overjoyed to see his brother “A,” as he called our father. He said he never
believed “A” would come to see him! They had a wonderful visit together. They
were more of an age and had shared more experiences than had Paul and
himself. But while he was happy to see Paul too in
Earl and wife who bought a ranch at
The rest of the summer of ’73 went by pretty fast. He took a couple short trips to my brother Elmer’s in Northridge where he stayed a few days each time. Then at Thanksgiving we took him to see my brother Earl one last time. He enjoyed this trip very much he said.
He was 84 on the 8th of December. The next day Sunday afternoon we had a surprise birthday party for him. Aunt Lillian’s daughter Elaine made and decorated a lovely cake for the occasion. Aunt Lillian and Aunt Edith, his two sisters, were to the party as well as other relatives and friends. He thoroughly enjoyed the occasion! Little did we realize it was his last birthday though, as he seemed quite well.
The Sunday before Christmas we took him to Elmer and Jeanie’s for a family Christmas get together. We all enjoyed a nice day.
The following week, before New Year’s, he went with Walter to the church on Saturday to the workday the men of the church were having. He worked outside trimming some of the shrubbery. It was a nice day and he seemed to enjoy himself. But it was soon evident he caught cold.
To top it
off it began to rain. I wanted to take him for a shot of penicillin or
something to help him shake the cold, but he just hugged the fireplace and slept
a lot in his chair. He was just beginning to feel a little better when I
received word of my brother Eugene’s passing of a sudden heart attack [08 Jan
1974]. How I dreaded to break this news to him. He took it pretty hard. Said
it ought to have been him instead.
Well, he just seemed to lose the will to live after that and went down in health fast. One month to the day later we had to take him to the Loma Linda hospital. He only lasted three weeks. After he had been there about a week he said to Walter and me, “You’re going to miss the old man being around one of these days.” Truer words were never spoken! Somehow he seemed to realize his time was short, but he was ready and anxious to go to be with Mother.
Adolph Elmer Meissner was born 8 Dec 1889 at the family homestead near Merlin OR.
He died 2 Mar 1974 at Loma Linda CA, aged 84 years 2 months 22 days.
Pearl Wing was born 9 Mar 1891 at
She died 20 Dec 1972 at