Mrs. Silas Matthew

by

Dan Turner

 

One of the richest valleys in the world is the Red RiverValley. The many pioneers who settled in our country and built it from nothingto a great place came from all walks of life. One of the many people whohelped to get things underway was Nellie Matthew who was born to Mr. andMrs. R. J. Turner on July 23, 1897.

In 1849, Mrs. Silas Matthew's (Nellie) grandparents camefrom Berkurchshire Scotland to Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. Mr. and Mrs. Turnermoved from Sarnia to Wisconsin and from Wisconsin to Red Wing and to BellePlaine, Minnesota. Things must not have started out too well until Mr. andMrs. Turner came from Belle Plaine to Kittson County as early pioneers.When they came to Kittson County, they lived on the Minnesota side of theborder near Emerson. Across the river.

Since Nellie's grandparents were such early pioneers, whosettled the country we now live in, she is truly a native of the area. Mrs.Matthew recalls her folks telling stories about the early days in the country.She remembers one story about her grandfather who was going to cross theRed River at St. Vincent. Her grandfather was in St. Vincent and he gotword that a man had fallen into the river' and people were looking for someone,a strong swimmer, to rescue him. So Nellie's grandfather who was a goodswimmer jumped in to rescue the man not even bothering to take off his suit.When Nellie's grandfather got to the man the man got panicky and tried tograb her grandfather, so her grandfather simply knocked him out and carriedhim safely to the shore. The river had a very fast current in those daysand it really took a strong swimmer to get the man out, and her grandfatherwas. When her grandfather jumped into the river, he had $500.00 in his billfold.He was worried about the wet money, so he got some matches from a friendand walked away down the shore and started a fire to dry out his clothesand money. Her Grandpa Turner must have been a real strong Scotch man becausehe lived to be over 85 years old.

Nellie's Grandma Turner had some very nice Indian friendneighbors who came to visit her. One day she was making some doughnuts andwhen the Indians stopped by she gave them some to try. When she made thedoughnuts she cut the dough in strips and wound them around each other.The next time the Indians came they asked her for some more screw cakes,because that's how they looked to them. Mrs. Turner thought this was reallyfunny. The Indians wanted her to visit them in return. She didn't want tooffend them so she went. Mrs. Turner didn't think too much of their cookingoutside, but she ate with them anyway. Nellie's Grandmother had a very finesaying that is very true. "You should love all people no matter whatcolor their skin was."

Mrs. Matthew remembers her father telling her about howthey got their farming done in the old days when there were no tractors.Her father had oxen to do the farm work with.

Oxen are and have been known for their stubbornness. So,when noon time came and the oxen were working in the field, they just tookoff for home right across country no matter what was going on. If her fatherdidn't stop at the right time they would take off for home. One day whenMrs. Matthew's father didn't stop the oxen in time they took off for homeright at noon. The oxen sure didn't believe in over time. One time Nellie'sfather had to go to Roseau County to get some wood to keep his house warmand do the cooking with. It took one day to go, one day to cut the woodand another day to come home with the load of wood. On March 15, 1871, herfather and his cousin George Turner had gone to Roseau for wood and on theirtrip home a terrible snow storm came up and it was snowing and blowing sobadly that you could hardly see your hand in front of your face. Her fathertold her that you had to have your face behind your collar to breath. Theyused horses on these long trips and when the snow storm came up they couldn'tsee where they were going so they let the horses take them home by themselves.When the horses noses and eyes got plastered with snow and ice they wouldclean the snow off and then let the horses continue. When the men and thehorses got home the horses took them and the wood right up to the barn doorand Nellie's father was wondering if he would be able to find the housefrom the barn and luck was with him because he hit the wall of the houseand kept going until he found the door.

Mrs. Matthew's other grandparents, who were Germans, cameacross the Atlantic Ocean from Germany when her grandmother was four orfive years old. Her grandparents name was Schafer. Her grandmother's fatherdied in Germany before they came to America. Nellie's grandmother came acrosswith her mother and aunt and husband and son. Nellie recalls hearing hergrandmother Schafrr tell of the trip across the ocean. It took a whole 12weeks to make the trip and during that time they went through a very severestorm and high waves which tossed them about and the sailors and captainput everybody away down in the ship where they were told to stay. Everyonewas very afraid. The sailors put bed clothing around the doors to keep outthe water. It was a very hard trip but they finally got to Canada and toWaterloo and Gulf Ontario. Nellie didn't know for sure but she expectedthat some descendants are still in that neighborhood. Nellie last heardfrom her mother's uncle, Joseph Kienapple, on July 26, 1960 when he was92. At that time he lived at Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Nellie's GrandpaSchafer married her grandmother in Canada.

Nellie's mother was born on September 15, 1872 at Waterloo.Her name was Elizabeth Schafer. When Nellie's mother was 5 years old herparents moved to some place in Michigan. And in 1882, she came to St. VincentMinnesota. At the time they came to St. Vincent, the town was a boomingfrontier town. Emerson and Humboldt were also growing. Word must have spreadfast about the nice homestead plots that could be obtained in Minnesota.At the time they came, there were lots of buildings in St. Vincent. A bighotel that was 2 stories high, livery barns for horses and blacksmith shopsand stores and also saloons. There were people coming and going at all times.Nellie's grandmother used to do some of the laundry for the hotel in St.Vincent. She used to iron and wash the linen. Mrs. Matthew's mother was10 years old when she began to deliver the linens for her mother. She usedto collect a little money for doing this. Nellie's mother used to say thatshe learned to count money very young. Nellie's Grandpa Schafer loved horseand animals of any sort. Her Grandpa studied books on how to care for animalswhen they were sick, so he was a sort of veterinarian in a way. Mrs. Matthew'sGrandpa was a lover of race horses. Nellie thought that if he were livingnow he would want Bobby Stewart for a partner.

When her grandpa was 60 years of age he used to go racesome horses. Nellie's grandfather used to go miles to doctor some sick horseswhen he was called or asked to do so. He must have been good because mostof the time he helped them get well.

When Nellie was young, she liked to ride on her father'shorse-drawn binder when he was cutting wheat. Nellie's father shocked thegrain bundles and then made stacks - four to a setting and they set farenough apart so that the threshing machine could sit between the stacksof bundles and work both ways. It took a lot of hard work to harvest inthose days than now when we have our modern conveniences. Nellie wishedthat she had had a camera back in the days when they threshed grain thatway. Those beautiful stacks of grain bundles standing in the field and thesight of the lovely grain being threshed are a happy memory. When Nelliewas small her dad used to have quite a few cows so their pasture was theJoe River on each side of the river. There used to be a fence a little waysout from the river so Nellie and her brothers James, Johnny, Alexander,David, and William went for the cows down a winding river path, which thecows had made. There were wild berries of all sorts growing along thesepaths. Wild strawberries and others were plentiful. Being a young girl Nelliebecame intrigued by the wild flowers and sometimes it took a long time toget the cows home! When Nellie's parents got a cream separator and theywere able to save the cream, they saved and saved the cream so they couldchurn butter.

When Nellie was little she walked to school. At first whenshe went to school, she went with her brothers and sisters and then latershe went alone. The last little school they attended was the Grampian schoolwhich was located where the Humboldt junkyard is now. When it got cold inwinter, and the stove didn't work right everyone became very very chilly.But nevertheless Nellie attended school in the country even if it wasn'tso very cozy. Sometimes when Nellie attended Grampian school in the countryshe was the only girl there. The boys often coaxed her to play ball gameswith them. They only let her play with them because she was older than mostof the other children. Nellie said playing ball helped her to learn to throwstraight. When Nellie finished the 8th grade she wanted to go to High Schoolbut there was only one grade of high school and that was at Humboldt. Inorder to go to school there, she would have had to board with someone andbuy her own books and other necessities. So she was unable to go to highschool. Going to school in order to get a little education in those dayswas hard for poor children. However, Nellie read books that helped her learnhow to can vegetables, bake bread and other things. Nellie went on learningand learned how to sew and do fancy work which she still enjoys. Tettingis still a favorite hobby.

Nellie had five brothers, James, Alexander, John, Dave,and William. One sister, Maggie, who was Mrs. Stanley Lang. The only membersof the family living yet are Nellie, Alexander, and John. Nellie's brother,John, was mailman for 40 years at St.Vincent.

Nellie met her husband, Silas, when he was a little overten years old. He and his mother came to church at the North Star Churchand from the time she saw him, she knew he was the one for her!

On December 4, 1918, Nellie married Silas Matthew of Humboldt,Minnesota. Silas and Nellie were united in marriage at the St. Vincent Parsonage.

Silas was born at North Wiltshire, Prince Edward Islandon March 16, 1895. Silas came from Prince Edward Island to Canada and in1905 passed through Quebec into the United States, Silas went through St.Paul and onward up north through Minnesota until he had come to Humboldtwith his family. Silas's family had an aunt and uncle in Humboldt, Mr. andMrs. Alfred Matthew. Silas had some grandparents in Humboldt also who wereMr. and Mrs. Crocker.

Silas helped his Uncle AIf on his farm when he was 15 yearsold until he was 21 years old. When he quit helping his uncle he then bought160 acres of land from his uncle. After he had the land he had a carpenterfrom Hallock build him a barn and grainery in 1916 and he had the housethey now live in built in 1917. Back in those days it was really somethingfor a new bride to move into a new house. As far as that goes, it stillis. After Nellie and Silas were married things went pretty good and thena fine thing happened. A son was born. On September 2, 1919, their son,Wilfred, was born.

Nellie and Silas grain farmed and raised horses and cattle,which were many. And Nellie always had her chickens and geese to watch over.

Nellie said that the many years she has lived have neverbeen wasted. She could have gone on to learn a little more but she was gladto have a happy home, a good husband, a son and a niece, Clara, who livedwith them for 10 years. Mrs. Matthew said that she was glad to have helpedsome person to have a home when she was without one. Their son, Wilfred,has 3 children: Yvonne 20, Linda 17, and Donna who is 15 years old. Nellieand Silas are very proud of their three grandchildren. Nellie said thatshe thought life had been good to her family and she said that happinessmeans much to a person even if you don't have many other things. A fineand very interesting person, Mrs. Silas Matthew.

 

Bibliography

Matthew, Nellie (Interview) January 8, 1972

Matthew, Nellie (Interview) January 12, 1972

Bibliography

Matthew, Nellie (Interview) January 8, 1972

Matthew, Nellie (Interview) January 12, 1972