Search billions of records on

Eyeglasses of Agnes Elizabeth (Kelly) Sweeney
Daughter of Daniel and Mary (Leahy) Kelly
Wife of Peter Francis Sweeney
You can learn more about Agnes and the Sweeney family at The Sweeneys of Ringer Hill.
Photos Contributed by Bob Sweeney
Her Grandson and Son of Robert Gerard Sweeney



Wherein we learn about grandmothers, old houses, cheap prices for soap and fish, and other conditions of life for our ancestors in northern Pennsylvania in the early days of the twentieth century...and further on down we learn what it really meant to have "an eighth grade education"...

Lena Vera (Brink) O'Hara (08/1895-12/1975)
In 1970 and in 1896
Lena was 1 of 8 children of Clarence Joshua Brink and Cora Etta Hazen. There were 7 girls and 1 son. Cora's father was John Newton Hazen who owned a gristmill near Laporte. Lena's husband, James A. O'Hara who was the golf pro at Eaglesmere Country Club around 1920-1930. James and Lena had three children: James A., Jr (born 1921); John (Bud) Brink O'Hara (born 1922), both sons born in Eaglesmere, PA; and Ann (born 1924) in Huntingdon, PA. All lived in Eaglesmere for quite some time.
Photos Contributed by Casey J. O'Connor
Son of Ann O'Hara and Grandson of Lena Brink O'Hara
Older Photo Taken at Krips Studio in Eaglesmere, PA


Blanche Julia (Sweeney) Wayman
Born at Ringdale near Laporte, PA
Grandmother of Jane Rita "Janie" Bustin, of Sayre, PA
Second Picture With Brother Peter Francis Sweeney (1877-1934)
1904 at Time of Peter's Wedding
Taken at Ott and Hay Studio in Towanda, PA
Photo of Blanche as an adult contributed by Janie Bustin
Photo of Blanche and Peter contributed by Robert E. Sweeney, grandson of Peter Sweeney

"In the summer of 1900, when my grandmother was a child..."

The average life expectancy in the United States was forty-seven. *

Only 14 percent of the homes in the United States had a bathtub.

Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone. A three minute call from Denver to New York City cost eleven dollars.

There were only 8,000 cars in the US and only 144 miles of paved roads. The maximum speed limit in most cities was ten mph.

Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa, and Tennessee were each more heavily populated than California. With a mere 1.4 million residents, California was only the twenty-first most populous state in the Union.

The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.

The average wage in the US was twenty-two cents an hour. The average US worker made between $200 and $400 per year.

A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year, a dentist $2500 per year, a veterinarian between $1500 and $4000 per year, and a mechanical engineer about $5000 per year.

More than 95 percent of all births in the United States took place at home.

Ninety percent of all US physicians had no college education. Instead, they attended medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press and by the government as "substandard."

Sugar cost four cents a pound. Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen. Coffee cost fifteen cents a pound.

Most women only washed their hair once a month and used borax or egg yolks for shampoo.

Canada passed a law prohibiting poor people from entering the country for any reason, either as travelers or immigrants.

The five leading causes of death in the US were: 1. Pneumonia and influenza, 2. Tuberculosis, 3. Diarrhea, 4. Heart disease, 5. Stroke.

The American flag had 45 stars. Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Hawaii and Alaska hadn't been admitted to the Union yet.

Drive-by shootings -- in which teenage boys galloped down the street on horses and started randomly shooting at houses, carriages, or anything else that caught their fancy, were an ongoing problem in Denver and other cities in the West.

The population of Las Vegas, Nevada was thirty. The remote desert community was inhabited by only a handful of ranchers and their


Plutonium, insulin, and antibiotics hadn't been discovered yet. Scotch tape, crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn't been invented. There was no Mother's Day or Father's Day.

One in ten US adults couldn't read or write. Only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.

Some medical authorities warned that professional seamstresses were apt to become sexually aroused by the steady rhythm, hour after hour, of the sewing machine's foot pedals. They recommended slipping bromide, which was thought to diminish sexual desire, into the women's drinking water.

Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at corner drugstores. According to one pharmacist, "Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and the bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health."

Coca-Cola contained cocaine instead of caffeine.

Punch-card data processing had recently been developed, and early predecessors of the modern computer were used for the first time by the government to help compile the 1900 census.

Eighteen percent of households in the United States had at least one full-time servant or domestic.

There were about 230 reported murders in the US annually.

* Editor's Note: One reason for the shorter life expectancy may have been the challenges faced by a medical "profession" which, in those days, relied primarily upon intuition, herbal or folk remedies, placebo effects and a healthy dose of charlatanry. You can read about one eccentric Sullivan County practitioner, Dr. John Corr ("Carr") in Historic Hodge-Podge. A description of the routine of a circuit riding physician from earlier in the nineteenth century is provided in the History of Lycoming County (John Meginess, 1892):

Concerning the practice in those early days - 1838 to 1848 - Dr. Lyon. says:

The country roads were very rough, and at times unsafe for any kind of vehicle, and the only mode of travel was on horseback, and occasionally in what is called a sulky, which, at certain seasons of the year, could not be used. My rides and drives extended twenty-five miles up Loyalsock and Lycoming creeks. I frequently made both trips on horseback. We had but one drug store, and that a very indifferent one, and were obliged to send to Philadelphia for all important drugs. My bills would frequently amount to $600 per year. That was trusted out among all kinds of patients and carried to their houses. Money being exceedingly scarce and fees very small, made it hard to meet our indebtedness. A visit in town was 25 cents; obstetrical cases, $5 in town, and country. Being obliged to compound our medicines and extract teeth as there were no dentists in that day-gave us little time to rest or sleep. Bleeding, cupping, and, leeching were extra charges. Extracting teeth if we got any compensation was 25 cents, and having no anesthetics and frequently very unruly subjects, which took up a great deal of time, made it not only very unprofitable but exceedingly disagreeable. In all cases of an inflammatory type, and particularly patients of a plethoric habit, we bled from the arm or the foot. The latter was generally resorted to in children. Local bleeding was generally performed with cups.

Dr. Thomas Lyon, the writer of the foregoing, was born at Pennsville, October 13, 1812; studied medicine with that eminent practitioner, Dr. James S. Dougal, of Milton, and graduated in 1838 at Jefferson Medical College. In April of that year he established himself at Williamsport, Where he has practiced without interruption up to the present writing, (May, 1892) a period of fifty-four years! He and Dr. Hill are the oldest practitioners in Lycoming county. Dr. Lyon married Elizabeth Priestley, of Northumberland, a great-granddaughter of Dr. Joseph Priestley.

--Excerpt from When My Grandmother was a Child by Leigh W. Rutledge, E.P. Dutton, 1996

Old Advertisements
Dingman's Soap
Customer is Advised to Avoid "Cheap Imitations"
About 1935
Specials on Fish
Scranton, PA
About 1900
Photos contributed by Carol Brotzman
The first is from the Ellen Crawford Shefler Collection; the second from an old book

Here's another revealing piece of information about life in the olden days that we received from Carol Brotzman, one of our prominent contributors:


Years ago a Kentucky grandmother gave a bride the following recipe for washing clothes:

1. Bilt fire in backyard to heat kettle of rain water.
2. Set tubs so smoke wont blow in eyes if wind is pert.
3. Shave one hole cake of lie soap in bilin water.
4. Sort things, make 3 piles. 1 pile white, 1 pile colored, 1 pile work britches and rags.
5. To make starch, stir flour in cool water to smooth, then thin down with bilin water.
6. Take white things, rub dirty spots on board, scrub hard, and then bile. Rub colored, don't bile, just rinch and starch.
7. Take things out of kettle with broomstick handle, then rinch, and starch.
8. Hang old rags on fence.
9. Spread tea towels on grass.
10. Pore rinch water in flower bed.
11. Scrub porch with hot soapy water.
12. Turn tubs upside down.
13. Go put on clean dress, smooth hair with hair combs. Brew cup of tea, sit and rock a spell and count your blessings.

Now let's read about an old house and what it meant and means to a family that has lived in Sullivan County for over 150 years!!! The story comes to us from Mary Sayman, and we have a picture of her grandparents and their family at the end of the story.

The Sayman Homestead
"The Great Grey Ghost"
Photo contributed by Carol Brotzman


by Mary P. Sayman

Mary P. Sayman in 2000
Photo contributed by Mary P. Sayman

There is a great gray ghost of a farmhouse that sits amidst two hundred acres atop a mountain in a place called Forks Township, Sullivan County, Pennsylvania, where Dutch Corners and Shrimp Hill conjoin. My great-grandfather, Manessa, built it from trees he felled, cut, and planed at his mill. The timbers are hand-hewn and stout. It has a dug cellar, a laid-up field stone foundation built on a corner stone inscribed with his name, M. H. SAYMAN (the "S" is backwards), and the year 1872. It reaches skyward to the walk-up third floor attic that is as cavernous as the house below. The fact that the house still stands tall on the mountain where the winters are harsh and cruel biting winds howl is a testament to the builder.

From the time I can first remember, my parents and I used to Visit there. My great-grandfather had long since departed from his earthly form and the farm had been handed down to his oldest son, as was the custom; but, I loved every minute I spent there. There was always room in the house for three or four or ten people to visit and even stay overnight if they wanted. Of course, if people stayed, they had to work for their room and board. Rise and shine time was 3:30 a.m. Chores were done and breakfast, consisting of yesterday's leftovers with maybe a little extra cooked that morning, depending on the number of guests, was hot and on the table when you came in.

No matter the time of year, there was always a cook-fire Smoldering in the stove in the sittin' room and the tea "kittle" was always hot. Sweet water, so crisp and cold it made your head ache, could be had from the hand pump at the end of the porch; and there was a one-seater (outhouse) around the back corner of the house where you didn't linger too long, especially in cold weather. Guinea hens and chickens strutted around the year, clucking and pecking; and there was always a cow dog or two to chase around when they weren't working that liked to lick your bare feet when you got tired and sat down for a spell.

Wonderful smells from the kitchen always permeated the air; fresh pie made from apples or peaches picked in the orchard; candied sweet potatoes dug from the garden, simmering in home- made maple syrup; venison, slow roasting; fresh bread made from corn, wheat, or oats grown on the farm. From sun-up to sun-down there was always a hum of activity. It was a place of wonderment.

Our trips to the family homestead became less frequent and Finally stopped when I was about eight years old. I missed them very much, but by then we had our own farm to run. I remember looking through my mother's photograph albums every chance I got, recalling good people, good times, and wonderful childhood memories. I silently wondered why we never went there any more and wished we could.

Years after my father passed away, I surprised my mother on her birthday by just showing up on her doorstep. I told her we would go anywhere or do anything she wanted, my treat. Surprise of all surprises, she wanted to go down to visit my father's cousins who had inherited the homestead. She called to make sure they would be home and she almost beat me to the car because she was so excited and anxious to get there.

I was excited, too; but I was also filled with trepidation. Growing up, I had often heard a saying I didn't understand: "You can't go home again." Age and experience had taught me the meaning. Rarely is anything the same as you recall it from childhood. Perspectives change when you see remembered things through adult eyes. I wanted to keep everything about this place the same; I didn't want to be disappointed.

We wound our way up the mountain, following the roads as if I had been going there all of my life. How I remembered the way after 25 years I'll never understand, and neither will my mother. She argued with me about which roads to take and which way to turn.

I finally pulled off to the side of the dirt road across from The homestead. My mother bolted from the car and turned halfway to the house to ask if something was wrong. I stood in the middle of that mountain road with tears of joy streaming down my face. Except that the front porch had been enclosed and the guinea hens were missing from the yard, nothing had changed. It was exactly the same as I had always remembered it, exactly the same as the pictures in my mother's photograph albums. I felt like I was home.

We visited for hours. I explored the property and buildings again as I had in years gone by and then we lunched on a real home-grown, home-made meal cooked on the old sittin' room stove. The house was full of ancestral spirits that day. I could feel their presence and almost hear their voices.

By the end of the day, I realized why I had been so apprehensive about the trip to the homestead. I had been afraid the wonderful lessons learned at the knees of my ancestors would some how be diminished by my having grown up. This place was where I had learned about family, respect, love, sharing, and giving a fair day's work for a fair day's wage. Everyone was always welcome and everyone was treated the same, no matter their status in life. Nobody got special treatment and everybody shared the work and the fun. But I discovered something even more important that day: early lessons stay with you all your life, especially if they are taught with love and kindness. This place was where I had grown, not grown up. I returned to the homestead often from that day on to drink in the ambiance, replenish my spirit, and learn about my family by listening to my elders reminisce.

As far as I know, the great gray ghost still stands atop the mountain, a new family having been charged with its care. It passed, along with four generations' personal history and worldly belongings, to other hands at public auction years ago. Meanwhile, the lessons my ancestors handed down to me and by which they shaped my moral character live on, grow stronger each day, and are being handed down to the next generation.

By permission of 1996 Mary P. Sayman
Also published in Missing Links, Vol. 7, No. 16, 21 April 2002

The Family of Luia and Alice (Mayo) Sayman
Back, l to r: Guy, Luia H., Laura, Mayme, Alice (Mayo)
Front, l to r: Ned, Russell, Maude, Roy
Sayman Homestead 1928
Photo contributed by Mary Sayman, granddaughter of Luia and Alice

Here's another unattributed story about "grandma" that we found floating around the Internet in 2004:

Grandma's Apron

The principal use of Grandma's apron was to protect the dress underneath, but along with that, it served as a holder for removing hot pans from the oven. It was wonderful for drying children's tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears. From the chicken-coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.

When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids; And when the weather was cold, grandma wrapped it around her arms. Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove. Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron.. From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables. After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls.

In the fall the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees. When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds. When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the men knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner. It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that "old-time apron" that served so many purposes.

"Grandma used to set her hot baked apple pies on the window sill to cool.
Her granddaughters set theirs on the window sill to thaw.

In early 2007, Carol Brotzman passed on this reminiscence that she got from Don Wilsey:


  What it took to get an 8th grade education in 1895

--Remember when grandparents and great-grandparents stated that they only had an 8th grade education? Well, check this out. Could any of us have passed the 8th grade in 1895?
This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina, Kansas, USA.  It was taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, KS, and reprinted by the  Salina Journal.

8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, KS -1895
Grammar (Time, one hour)

1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications
3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph
4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of"lie,""play," and "run"
5. Define case; Illustrate each case.
6 What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
7 - 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the  practical use of the rules of grammar.

Arithmetic (Time, 1.25 hours)

1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1050 lbs. for tare?
4. District No. 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find the cost of 6720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $20 per metre?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.

U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided.
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
8 Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865.

Orthography (Time, one hour)

1. What is meant by the following: Alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals
4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u.' (HUH?)
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e.' Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup.
Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.

Geography (Time, one hour)

1 What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of North America
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon,    St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco.
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10 Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.

Notice that the exam took FIVE HOURS to complete. Gives the saying "he only had an 8th grade education" a whole new meaning, doesn't it?! Also shows you how poor our education system has become... and, NO... I don't have the answers, and I failed the 8th grade test!! 

Here's another touching represenation of "grandparents", this time from our contributor, Phil Herman. The first picture shows his grandparents, FLoyd and Myra (Collins) Keeney at the time of their wedding in 1905 and again on their fiftieth wedding anniversary in 1955. Floyd lived from 1885 until 1957; Myra, from 1888 until 1957 as well. You can read more about this Collins family in Aunt Eliza's Scrapbook, where there is a large photo of these Collinses!

Floyd Ezra and Myra Susanne (Collins) Keeney
Husband and Wife
At Time of Wedding on November 20, 1905
and on Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary in 1955
Photos contributed by Phil Herman

Updated March 2012

Copyright 2010Robert E. Sweeney and individual Contributors. All Rights Reserved. Prior written permission is required from Robert E. Sweeney and individual Contributors before this material can be printed or otherwise copied, displayed or distributed in any form. This is a FREE genealogy site sponsored through PAGenWeb and can be reached directly at ~Sullivan County Genealogy Project (

Back to the Sullivan County Genealogy Page