Janet LaMasurier

by

Lori Webster

Junior High Division

 

In 1832, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Robert and Janet Orrockwith their young son, John, left Muir Castle where they had been employed,and sailed for North America. After six weeks on the sea, their ship landedat Montreal, Canada. There, within sound of the rapids on the St.LawrenceRiver, they established a new home and seven more children were born. Mr.Orrock was a minister, a carpenter, and a farmer. When their daughter Janet,(Janet LaMasurier's grandmother) who was called Jennie, was about seventeenyears old, the Orrocks again went seeking new frontiers. John, the eldest,was married by this time and did not join the family. The family went bytrain to St. Paul, Minnesota, and from there went north by riverboat upthe Mississippi River to Monticello. There they bought a team of oxen anda cart, crossed the river, drove nine miles north and east, and filed aclaim on 160 acres of land that was open to homesteaders. There, with thehelp of his three sons, they built a two room log cabin, barn, chicken houseand smokehouse. This was before Minnesota became a state. They cleared fieldsand the boys trapped, hunted, and fished.

The first school was started and Janet's grandmother wasthe first teacher. She was paid $2.00 a week.

When school wasn't in session, she worked for a photographerin Monticello. She had told Mr. Upman, the photographer, about the pet bearher brothers had; and consequently, one day he rode out to take a pictureof it. The bear was nowhere to be found, so Mr. Upman talked the familyinto dressing up and having a family picture taken. The sister-in-law inthe East had sent the girls lovely dresses. They couldn't afford the hoopsthat the skirts required so they went to the woods every week and pickedeither grape vines or if they had time to walk the two miles to the schoolto Lake

Anne, they would get bittersweet vines. The latter madethe best hoops. Getting the hoops was a weekly chore. Mr. Upman took thepicture and loaded his equipment on his horse and rode away. No sooner washe out of sight when the bear climbed down out of a tree and did all thetricks he knew.

Mr. Orrock was a minister, so every Sunday he walked hisfamily nine miles to the Baily Station Schoolhouse where he conducted hisservices.

The Civil War came along and the young men who were courtingthe Orrock girls all went off to war. George L. Knapp, who was courtingJennie, enlisted in the 35th Infantry. He carried a little wooden bottleof ink and used a quill pen, which was made from the wing feather of a gooseor turkey, to write his love letters. George and Jennie were married soonafter his discharge from the Army. They set up housekeeping on a farm notfar from the Orrock farm. There Janet's father and his sister were born.

This was still a wild country and many Indians still roamedaround. One day when Jennie went to gather eggs she found that a big bullsnake had found the hen's nest and had swallowed one egg and started tocrawl under the fence, a stake fence. The snake had swallowed another wholeegg and could neither go forwards or backwards. Jennie was deathly afraidof snakes. Just then a band of Indians came along and Jennie asked themto kill the snake. They did and then she asked them what she could do forthem. Jennie's husband had raised a pumpkin. It was four feet in diameterand the Indians asked for that. Jennie gladly gave it to them. That eveningJennie and her husband heard a great powwow down by the river. Jennie'shusband went to see what it was all about. They were roasting the pumpkinand singing and dancing around the fire.

Chief Massomoni from the Chippewa tribe near Mille LacsLake was a regular visitor of the Knapp house. He made overnight visitsgoing and returning from his regular visits to the state capital in St.Paul. He even went to Washington once to visit the "Great White Father."In the spring, he brought maple sugar and syrup in the fall, he broughtwild rice. He always refused to sleep in a bed, but he would wrap his blanketsaround him and sleep on the kitchen floor.

When the Orrocks got too old to farm and all the childrenwere gone, they asked Jennie and her husband to move over and take careof them. In return, they gave them the homestead which now had a large farmhouse on it.

Jennie and her husband had a large herd of dairy cows.They built a good warm milk house with a cooler on the east side of it.The other half of the building was an icehouse. The men would take ice andclimb up and lower it into the cooler. There were no cream separators inthose days, so Jennie put the milk in milk pans. These were made of tinat least twenty inches in diameter and four inches deep. She had a cupboardto set them in which was called a "safe". It had screened panelsin the doors and on the sides. When the cream has risen to the top, sheused a skimmer to take the cream off. A skimmer was a tin saucer with holesin the bottom and a lip on the side to hold it by. Jennie churned the creamand made butter. She packed her butter in five pound crocks. She had woodenboxes that held ten or twelve crocks. She would lock the boxes and shipthem to a hotel in Minneapolis. They had the other key, so they could beopened when they arrived there. Jennie was also famous for the cheese shemade. One time, a storekeeper in Elk River told her he would give her enoughmaterial to make a dress if she would make him some cheese. When Jennietook him the cheese, he sampled it and then wanted to give her only fiveyards of material. Jennie wanted seven yards. While they were arguing, thejudge came in and they both agreed to let the judge settle it. The judgesampled the cheese, pronounced it delicious, and said that no self respectingbody could make a dress with anything less than fifteen yards of material.Jennie got the fifteen yards and she and her daughter each had a new dress.

Just before the turn of the century, a new schoolteachercame to teach in District 30 and she boarded with Jennie and her husband.Their son fell for her and in December, 1900, Janet's dad and mother weremarried. They moved to the adjoining farm and that is where I was born.Janet's sister was older and her brother was younger.

Jennie's husband died in March of 1909, but Janet remembershim well. The spring before, Janet's mother let her go alone the quarterof a mile distance to visit Jennie and her husband. Jennie's husband wasworking at the barn and Janet stopped by to talk to him. Pretty soon hetold her to "run along" and meant up to Jennie's house, but Janetwent home. The old guinea hens and their babies were by the road and theold ones flew at Janet and scratched her face. Janet ran for home. Janet'smother was washing clothes out in the yard and grabbed the carbolic salveand was fixing her face when Jennie's husband, (Janet's grandpa) came walkingdown the hill to see how badly Janet was hurt.

Jennie's husband died the next March. In those days, theyhad no funeral parlors. They moved the bed out into the milk house and hewas laid out there. The flowers were kept in the icehouse end which wasby then used for a wood shed. It puzzled Janet for many years. She rememberedher Grandpa the day of the funeral,l dressed in black with a rose on thelapel, but Janet's dad had his own black suit and he also had Grandpa's.Many years later, Janet asked her dad about it and he said that in thosedays people were buried in shrouds and not in suits as they are today.

Jennie continued to live on in her house and Janet's sistermade her home with her. Janet said they gave them milk and firewood everyday. Janet remembers one winter they had a real cold spell. It got to over50 degrees below zero. Her dad didn't go to bed for almost a week. He wouldlay down on their couch until around midnight and then he would fill ourstove and go to Grandmas and fill her stove. He would lay there until fouro'clock a.m. when he would fill her stove and then come back home and fixthe fire in our house.

When it was that cold, they never used the kitchen. Therewas no electricity, so no toasters, fry pans or cooking tools. Their stovewas called a Round Oak Heater. It had a ring around it about a foot fromthe stove to pout their feet on to warm them. It also had a fancy top onit that would swing out of the way. There was a lid that could be liftedoff and the iron pit was set in the hole. In this pot, they cooked one dishmeals - - soups, stews, and boiled dinners. Janet's mother had a gallonsyrup pail that she held over the fire on the poker to boil water for tea.The day they baked bread the kitchen was heated. They tried to bake a cakeand cookies on the same day.

In winter, there was a hill right in front of their houseand they spent many hours sliding. Their sled was a homemade one, but onChristmas Jennie got Janet's sister a "Flexible Flyer." It hadsteel runners and a steering device on the front. They learned to ski withskis made from barrel staves with a strap nailed on. When they were bigenough, they got to use their dad's skis. They were made from birch lumber,which was made from trees on their farm. They were very heavy and one winterwe had a hired man who brought his factory made skis with him. He let Janetuse them and she thought she had wings because she could go so fast.

When winter came, Janet's dad always put the sleigh bellson the horse's harnesses, at least on the work team. He had some lovelysounding bells that went on the tongue of the light sleigh that he usedon the driving team. When they went driving, they had the heavy horse blanketsand a fur robe to keep them warm. The horse blankets were put on the horseswhen they were tied up in town to keep them warm. Before that, they usedto heat bricks and wrap them in newspapers to keep their feet warm. Everybodywore a scarf and Janet had a fur muff for her hands and a fur collarette.That was a double collar. The smaller one she turned up and tied aroundher ears with her scarf. Her dad had a long sheepskin coat with fur-linedear flaps or logs as some called them.

They lived six miles from town, two miles from the ruralschool and seven miles from church and Sunday school. There were churchescloser to them, but the services were either in the Swedish or Norwegianlanguage.

Their rural school was just one room and one teacher forall eight grades. There was never more than 12 or 14 pupils. They had doubleseats and the desks would fold down. They walked to school unless it wasabout 20 degrees below zero. Unless the snow was so deep they had to walkon the road, they walked through the woods along a meadow with a creek runningthrough it which never froze. A spring was boxed in and had a post witha tin can hanging on it to drink from. The next pasture they cut throughhad an Indian mound in it. There was a large open space in front of theschool where they played baseball, pump, pump pull-away and when there wassnow on the ground, fox and goose. There was a dense grove of poplar treesclose to the playground. No tree was over three inches in diameter, so witha hatchet they cut down a path to the center and cleared a small area. Herethey played Indians and cannibals. The big events of the school year werethe Christmas program and the school picnic. Their schoolhouse was abouta quarter of a mile away from a lake. Only four homes were built aroundthe lake. One on a hill had a grove of trees between the road and the lakeand there they had their picnic. The owners took everyone out in their rowboatfor a boat ride.

Until they were old enough to drive the horses, they hadSunday School at home. A cousin of Janet's dad was superintendent of theSunday School in Orrock Township where they lived. She sent them their quarterliesand Sunday School papers and Janet's mother taught them every Sunday.

They went to church in a rural community called Meadowvale.Janet barely remembers the old church which was struck by lightning andburned to the ground. She remembers feeling badly because the organ wasburned. Church was then held in the schoolhouse until the new church wasbuilt. By then, they were old enough to go by themselves. A minister cameevery two weeks so church and Sunday School were in the afternoon. The otherSundays, Sunday School was at 10:00 in the morning. They left home about9:00. It was Janet's brother and Janet who were responsible for gettingup and getting the horses home on Sunday morning. Their pasture had 160acres in it with a swamp running two-thirds of the way through the center.The horses could be only about a quarter of a mile from home but aroundthe swamp it was over a mile. In summer, the Sunday School always had apicnic at Birch Lake. There again, there were few houses on the Lake. Therewas a nice picnic spot, the owner's house and the lake. They had a cabinby the lake, but it was never rented out when they had picnics, so theyused it to change their clothes in. They always swam and someone alwayswent out in the boat and gathered waterbellies. Minnesota now protects theselovely flowers.

Besides the Sunday School picnic, the Missionary Societymet at the lake at least twice every summer and the Meadowvale folks alwayshad a picnic on the fourth of July.k

Their yard had a large open space in it, so many wienerroasts and parties were held at our place. Janet remembers one party well.Her dad had a large brush pile on a hill in the pasture and he decided thatwould be the time and the place to burn it. While they were having fun,Jennie, who didn't go, spent the evening answering the phone. Folks werecalling from all around to see where the fire was.

People did all their own baking and when the supply ofbread was low, they depended on quick breads. Pancakes, baking powder andsoda biscuits. Jennie made scones. They were a rich biscuit dough pattedout into six inch rounds and baked on the pancake griddle. Johnny cake orcorn bread was another favorite. Janet also made "dough boys."They were a sugarless doughnut dough and fried in hot lard. Janet's motherhad a steamer, a large tin kettle with a lid and hole in the bottom. Itsat on the iron kettle. In it she made steamed brown bread, or if she hada large supply of very dry bread, she would lay slices of it in the steamerand they ate them with syrup or jelly.

During hot weather, people tried to get meals with as littleheat in their wood cook stoves as possible. Corn cobs made a quick hot fireand also, chips from the wood guard. Whenever the winter's supply of woodwas wet, big chips of oak and birch were used. They often took a two-wheeledcart that Janet's dad made and brought home these big chips. Jennie's (Janet'sgrandma) farm had been fenced with three feet stake fences with barbed wireon top. They had fallen into disuse, so Jennie would get Janet to help her.They would take her wheelbarrow and go and pull the stakes out of the fence.They were very dry, and she could break them into stove lengths by steppingon them.

Their first dog was strictly Janet's dad. He never wantedto be bothered with the children. Their next dog was Janet's, at least healways followed her and obeyed her when he wouldn't anyone else. Janet'smother always told her the story about their first dog and Grandma and Grandpa'sdog. Janet's sister was a small baby and one day when her dad and Grandpawere going to town with the team and lumber wagon, Janet's dad loaded thebaby in the baby buggy and took mother and the baby as far as grandma's.There were several real sandy plows in the road and he didn't know if mothercould push the buggy home or not. He told her if she couldn't, to go backto grandma's and go home with him. After a good visit with grandma, motherstarted for home. She got along fine and was about half way when she metgrandpa's dog. He whined and fussed. He laid down in front of the baby buggywheels and finally took hold of her skirt and pulled her towards grandma's.Mother decided to go back, but not say anything about the dog. Grandma saidshe would fix supper and they could eat before they went. After supper,dad took his family and drove home. When they came down the fill to theyard, they found that their dog had gone mad. Dad drove close to the door,got his gun, and shot the mad dog.

There were no school busses in those days and when theywere ready for High School, they had to stay in town. The first two yearsJanet's sister was with her and their parents rented two rooms for them.By then, their Grandma was living with them and from her house they gotenough furniture to furnish the rooms. They had a kerosene stove to cookon. Janet's dad drove them the six miles to town every Monday morning andcame for them on Fridays. There were two stores in town and both were greatfriends with grandma and Janet's folks. Once sugar was very scarce and whenstores got some, they limited their sales to twenty-five cents worth. Bothstores gave lots to Janet, her sister, and her parents.

During World War I, when you bought 100 pounds of whiteflour you had to take 100 pounds of other flours. Janet's mother used barleyflour and made very good bread and an excellent hot bread with molasses,raisins, and barley flour. The corn flour and rice flour made real goodpie crusts.

Also, during World War I, everyone learned to knit. Atschool they knitted six inch squares for afghans for the veteran hospitalsand at home, they knitted socks, sleeveless sweaters, helmets and wristletsthat came way down over the hands and had a hole for the thumb to keep themin place. All this knitting was done with a dark gray wool yarn. After thewar, the Red Cross asked for sweaters and caps for children knitted fromdark red wool yarn.

After high school, Janet went to teacher's college. Aftera year there, she received a certificate that let her teach in rural school.Her first school was just one room with an entry for coats and lunch pails.It also had a barn, so some of the children could drive to school. Her nextschool was east of South St. Paul. It was quite a modern community. Theyhad rural electric lines, not R.E.A., but from St. Paul. This school alsohad a basement and furnace. They had their own hot lunch program. In theentry was a dishpan. As the children came to school, they put a jar withwhatever they wanted hot at noon. Soups, meatballs, and gravy, sauerkraut,wieners, you name it, and they brought it. At morning recess, Janet putwater in the pan and set it on the oil stove in the basement. At noontime,everything was piping hot.

When Janet had saved enough, she went back to St. CloudTeacher's College and received her diploma so she could teach in town schools.She obtained a job teaching third, fourth, and fifth grades in St.Vincent.She had thirty-four pupils. There was a kindergarten, first and second gradesin the other downstairs room and the library was in the hall. Upstairs thesixth, seventh, and eighth grades were in one room and a four year highschool in the other. The children from Noyes were bussed to St.Vincent butNumber Two school, a rural school in the same district, was still in operation.this school was west of the Roy Clow farm and on the northeast corner ofthe Bud Fleck farm. St.Vincent had a football team that year and playeddown on the old ball park. They also played basketball, both girls and boys.Practice and games were in the old Reed Hall. In the spring, there was aplay day at Hallock and St.Vincent won the silver cup that is now in thetrophy case at Humboldt. St.Vincent School has changed very little sinceit was built in 1903. Janet started as school secretary in the fall of 1956.

After teaching in St.Vincent, Janet married Harvey LaMasurierand moved to the farm north of St.Vincent. The house was heated with a woodburning range in the kitchen and a heater in the dining room.

Later on, Stan was born and in 1955 got married and theymoved into town. Harvey took the janitor job at the St. Vincent School.

In the fall of 1956, Janet was hired as the first schoolsecretary. In 1957, the first class graduated from the Humboldt-St.VincentSchool.

Due to Harvey's health, they were forced to retire in thespring of 1964 and they moved to California that fall.

Bibliography

LaMasurier, Janet, Ontario, California, Correspondence,January 10, 1975m the Humboldt-St.VincentSchool.

Due to Harvey's health, they were forced to retire in thespring of 1964 and they moved to California that fall.

Bibliography

LaMasurier, Janet, Ontario, California, Correspondence,January 10, 1975