Recollections of My Life and Reflections on Times and Events During It: A Memoir by Father W. J. Howlett

Page 4

          My father was born in the County Wexford and my mother in the County Kildare, Ireland. They were married at Castledermot, and two years later they emigrated to Canada with one child (Margaret) who died at the age of four years. Four more children were born in Canada within the next eight years, and in 1838 the family crossed from Canada and settled in Monroe County, New York. Here seven more children were born; twelve children in all, of whom I was the tenth. With such a family it was necessary to plan for the future. My father was no longer young, and none of his children had taken up any trade. The mill had degenerated to a mere grist mill, and in 1852 had ceased to operate. I do not know if Horace Greeley had sounded the slogan, “Go West, Young Man,” at that time, but my father decided his plan was to go to Chicago. It was a growing city at that time and the surrounding country was open to settlement for all who preferred farming. The idea of a quiet life in the country, where he and his children would own their own homes within neighboring distance and live where the family ties would still prevail was in the mind, and he concluded that it could be realized in the vicinity of Chicago.

          I have a recollection of the night of his return. Like little children, we searched his coat pockets to find out if he had brought us anything good to eat. We found only some broken crackers in the pocket where he carried his smoking tobacco, and I have still in mind the taste of those crumbs mixed with tobacco. And this brings  to my mind [an] experience of a year later, but that in good time. I do not know whether the winters were colder there than elsewhere, but I do recollect seeing the snow piled so high that the fences would not show through the crust.

          My recollections of the people are rather vague. Attending the school were the Howell children of Cartersville, and Minnie Ackley whose family managed the Phoenix Hotel at that place. Minnie was about fifteen years old and not very bright in arithmetic. Dan Bromley was a friend who boarded at the hotel, and one day came in very hungry. Minnie was deputed do wait on him and she said he was so hungry that he ate sixteen biscuits all but four. How many that was she did not know, but she knew the pan held sixteen and there were but four after Dan finished. The Eddys were another family I remembered, but I fancy they were not very clean, for when my big brothers wished to shame my sisters if their smocks were not clean they said; “You look like Sal Eddy.” Another family was the Jarvis Lords who lived at the locks of the Erie Canal. I believe they got into politics later and were mixed up in some unsavory business at Washington. I must not forget the old guide-post at the corner near the school with [a] sign pointing east and reading; “Palmyra, 19 miles.”


          In the Fall of 1852 we went to live in the Village of Pittsford with my Uncle John Doyle, a brother of my mother.

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