Dear friends, once again I give you my special guest blogger Kathleen Mae Schneider!
Long ago, all around the hamlet of Violet Hill just south of York, purple and white carpets of flowers covered the local countryside every spring, prompting the residents to honor this humble wildflower by naming their town after it.
Violets were probably in full bloom in this place in spring of 1912, when on Thursday, April 18th, my grandmother Allie Brown gave birth to her eighth child.
Although she and my grandfather, George Andrew Brown, delivered all of their other children at home, sometimes with a midwife and other times without, they summoned a doctor this time – a new thing to do to increase chances of survival for mother and child.
An international tragedy marked that spring, because earlier that week the pleasure cruise ship RMS Titanic hit an iceberg and sank, claiming 1,490 lives. Details of the disaster were still trickling in three days later on wireless radio. During breaks in Allie’s labor, the doctor asked others in the household if more survivors had been found, as details were sketchy in the newspapers.
Soon however, above the crackly sound of the sad news coming from the radio on this spring day was a very happy one: the lusty cry of a healthy new baby girl. Those present at her birth didn’t know that Margaret Elizabeth, named after the doctor's wife, would not only survive, but also outlive all of the Brown children and be able to tell the story of her birth to her own daughter 100 years later!
Mother’s birth coincided with another event
that would forever change the lives of many of us reading this blog. Her 38-year-old father bought the deed to 3 acres of wooded land just above Violet Hill along Starcross Road.
Butchering, operating a general store, selling homemade medicines and raising hunting dogs must have been profitable, because he paid $1,000 cash (an average year’s income) for the land on April 11, 1912 - just a week before my mother was born.
By 1913 there was a beautiful new brick Colonial Revival-style house on the side of this hill over-
looking the valley. The photograph below shows the house as Mother remembers it. On the left side of the picture you can see the barn and the roof line of the garage built onto the front for George’s new business venture - selling and repairing auto-
mobiles. On the gentle slope beside the house, we see the orchard he planted with apple, peach, pear and apricot trees, with Allie’s large vegetable garden next to it.
Mother loves to tell me what it was like to grow up in her old home. Her face lights up as she laughingly tells me wonderful tales of childhood playtime and adult escapades that took place here. What fun she and her family had in this house and barn so long ago! What a good life they enjoyed!
She often appears tired after story telling and her expression darkens. She shakes her head sadly with no comment, sets her jaw, and quickly changes the subject because she was "dwelling on it”, which she avoids at all costs. I want to know what hap-
pened at this place that is so traumatic for her to revisit. But I put away my notebook until another time when I can ask more questions.
The old Shady Dell dance hall is now dark, dusty and quiet. The jukebox is no more. Gone too is the outdoor brick fireplace around which rats huddled to keep warm on chilly evenings. In place of the snack bar and diner style booths in the house are a great room, modern kitchen and dining area for the next Dell family.
However, there is much history in this house that predates those teenagers’ Shady Dell times.
As they do for me, stories of its earlier incar-
nations might make you laugh and cry, and make you feel like you've entered a time machine with the dial set from the early twentieth century right
up to the present.
In the next post, we’ll visit the Dell house in more detail and discover some of her charms. We’ll also learn about my ancestors and their life in this amazing place.
Won't you please join us? Margaret and I will be waiting for you there!
In-Dell-ible Memories Chapter 1
In-Dell-ible Memories Introduction