High School Yearbook Photo

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

Monday, May 14, 2012

In-Dell-ible Memories, Chapter One by Kathleen Mae Schneider

Dear readers, once again it gives me great pleasure to present my special guest blogger Kathleen Mae Schneider.

..........Chapter 1

.....The Beauty 

..and The Butcher

..(Mother and Father of the Dell)

by Kathleen Mae Schneider

   In 1899, George Andrew Brown was a handsome red headed young man of 26 when my grandmother, Almedia Jane Guyer, came into his North York butcher shop to buy dinner. She was 22, slender and delicately featured – and engaged. The two struck up a conver- sation in which he told her his 25-year-old wife Annie had recently died.

   Annie had borne him four children in six years. One of her babies died when he was two months old. Annie also passed away from typhoid fever one month after her last baby was born. George was left a widower with three young children to raise.

   Allie, as she was called, had many boyfriends as a teenager and young woman. I can see why, without the benefit of makeup, she was considered beautiful and why George was immediately attracted to her. I remember her as an old woman in her seventies, but even then she was still delicate in visage, soft-spoken and gentle, with a shy little laugh.

   It must have been a whirlwind courtship because she told her children that she felt so sorry for George that she broke her engagement and married him instead. That was eight months after Annie’s death. To look at their portrait, I’m guessing that more than pity was involved!

George Andrew Brown and Almedia Jane (Guyer) Brown 
about two years after their wedding.

   Since the marriage came with three children aged 8, 5 and 8 months, Allie had to adapt to motherhood quickly and she obviously had her hands full. One story she told indicated that she had trouble with George’s firstborn, Lester, who would head off to school after breakfast but turn around and come back home after he was sure his father left for work!

   At some point early in the marriage Allie also contracted typhoid fever. York now takes for granted a clean and safe water supply, but that 
was not so in 1899. Before the advent of a public sewage system, many cities in America at the turn of the century experienced major epidemics of typhoid that killed thousands every year. York history documents a major outbreak in 1899. So it would seem that Annie and my grandmother were a part of that. Allie, already displaying a toughness that became legendary, survived. She gave birth to a son they named Eugene the year after her marriage to George. However, he died when he was only four months old.

   In 1902 there was happy news in the Brown family again. Allie delivered a second child, a daughter they named Florence - and this time the baby survived. Here we see George and Allie’s blended family. Myrtle, age 5, Lester, age 8 and Bobby, age 3 now have a new mother and baby sister.

   The location of my grandparents’ first home is not documented, but by 1911 we find them living in a modest house along George St. in Violet Hill, a small hamlet just south of York. There they owned and operated a general store. In back, George raised hunting dogs to sell. He also somehow acquired a number of recipes from an old Native American woman for remedies ranging anywhere from dyspepsia to hair loss. He mixed these up, cooked them on the family stove, and bottled them to sell as well.

   George and Allie’s first 12 years together were both joyous and sad. Five more children were born after Florence, but only three survived infancy. Earl was born in 1903, a year after Florence. Gordon arrived in 1906 but sadly; he contracted spinal meningitis and died at 18 months of age. 
In 1907, Austin was born and was followed two years later by a sister, Ethel. Bertha, born 14 months after Ethel in 1910, died six days later. In between these births as well as in subsequent years my grandmother also had several miscarriages.

   Chronicles of births and deaths such as this one were prevalent in turn-of-the-century America. With frequent disease outbreaks and little knowledge about pre- and postnatal care, maternal and infant mortality were common. George and Allie, both with and without midwives, delivered all of their children at home, which was the norm at the time. Birth control was nonexistent and families were typically large because it was important, without social security or Medicare, to have enough surviving children to help with the family work 
and also take care of their parents in old age.

   My research into my family history often requires me to read the handwritten birth record in the heavy old Brown family Bible and to visit the cemetery where many of my ancestors were laid to rest. I see the smallest tombstones - partially sunken into the ground, the carved lambs on top eroded by time and the elements. I silently mourn those infants and toddlers who must have brought
so much happiness at their conception and birth, but didn’t live long enough to play or grow up with their brothers and sisters.

   As a woman and mother of two, I cannot imagine the pain and sorrow, the physical and emotional fatigue that my grandmother must have experienced. By the time she was 33 and married 11 years, she had carried seven pregnancies to term and lost three of her children. She makes me, and many women of our time, look like slackers in the childbirth department! My grandfather must also have had his share of sadness and trauma as his family struggled with the tragedies life had dealt them.

   I know it’s conjecture or even fiction, but I imagine Allie standing by an upstairs window, feel-
ing a cooling breeze after a long and hot early September day. She’s pregnant again, two years after losing tiny Bertha. Unfastening and shaking her dark hair so it falls about her shoulders, she looks wistfully at dusk up toward the hill and woods the locals call The Shady Dell.

   How beautiful the trees there look to her as they display early autumn colors! How earnestly she prays that this child she carries will survive and be healthy! There’s always room for another son or daughter in her life and her heart, but she and George also desperately need more space in their house for this eighth member of their rapidly growing family.

   They had talked about building a new larger home in a location that could also accommodate a new business venture. Perhaps that hill overlooking the valley would be a good place…

Next time, Chapter Two: 

 Margaret Is Born – and So Is The Dell

With love to Mother and to All,

In-Dell-ible Memories Introduction
Margaret's Birthday


  1. What an amazing chronicle! I was mesmerized and back in that time through this very well written account. I can't imagine the heartache and sorrow women of that time enured at the loss of so many of their children. They are made of strong stuff.

    I can't wait to read the next chapter~

    1. Thank you Shelly for reading the beginning of the Brown family's saga. You're right about the toughness of my grandmother. It's continued in my Mother to be sure. Your compliment and interest is greatly appreciated! Have a great day.

  2. My goodness, George really got dealt a hard blow when his wife passed, but it seems his guardian angel was looking out for him the day he met Allie. I had read of the heartbreak that occurred during this time with the numerous diseases but reading this account of an actual family's despair struggling with typhoid fever makes it feel more real.

    Looking forward to the next installment. Have a great Monday friend!

    1. It certainly has made learning about history more meaningful for me to see how events 100 years ago impacted my ancestors. As I research their lives and times, more and more is revealed that is so inspiring to me here in our post-modern era. Thank you Amber for joining me as I walk their path through time.

  3. We are so blessed to live in this time, as complex and difficult as it can be. My great grandmother's first four babies died due to an untreated abscess in her broken hip that poisoned her breast milk. She unknowingly poisoned her own babies. The absolute horror of this is unfathomable to me. My great grandmother had four more babies who survived. The story you tell is deeply moving, with details and photographs that bring the contrast of generations and circumstances into bold relief.

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderMay 14, 2012 at 3:09 PM

      Jenny -

      How sad for your great-grandmother and her family! It makes you wonder how they survived doesn't it? However because they did, your very life today benefits from their determination and stamina. I find all these stories, both happy and tragic, inspiring and strength-giving. We all "stand" on the shoulders of those who came before us. Thank you for sharing a part of your family's story and for reading mine.

    2. Dear Kathleen, I never thought of it that way. My husband says I'm tough, and strong, and sometimes that bothers me. I guess I was made that way in order to live. Your insight gives me peace about my lifelong conflict of wanting to be soft and compassionate, but ending up a scrappy fighter instead. Thank you for sharing such beautiful writing, and for allowing us to glimpse at your family history. It really does make me be more thoughtful about my life in relation to those who came before us.

    3. Kathleen Mae SchneiderMay 15, 2012 at 2:35 AM

      Your conflict is a familiar one Jenny; I've certainly dealt with it. Like trees, I think we have to be strong enough to put down deep roots, stand tall, and grow a thick bark to protect ourselves from harm. (As we've seen in a previous post, sometimes that means
      patiently growing over and incorporating obstacles!) However what I'm learning about my ancestors also shows that, like trees that endure the storms of life, the ones flexible enough to bend with the gales and drop anything that was weighing them down were the ones who survived. In other words, we need compassion/softness, but a core strength to defend what we know to be right and a trust that we can
      survive and go on in spite of what life deals us - sometimes because of what it deals us. We need both, but of course it's often difficult to discern which one best furthers our survival. I'm glad my family's past informs your present and brings you peace. It surely has a lot to teach us all.

  4. Your grandparents were indeed a handsome couple. It shows what a large and kind heart your grandmother had to want to help George raise his children. It was amusing to hear how Lester didn't want to go to school! I don't blame him at all. It is much nicer to be home.

    I've often thought of the women in olden times who lost so many children and had to work so hard. Our times are completely different than theirs. I remember in my twenties meeting people who had 10-15 brothers and sisters. These were usually farming people.

    This was such a beautifully written piece. Thank you for sharing the memories of your family!

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderMay 14, 2012 at 3:14 PM

      Thank you for your comment, Belle. Having been a teacher for more than half my life, I can truly say it IS better to stay home! When snow days with no school were announced, not only the students were cheering! (LOL) We have several Amish families living next to us who have large families. Their many children help harvest hay, plant tobacco, bring in the cows, etc. You're right, we can scarcely identify with such lifestyles, (You should see their very long washlines...) but it shows how persistence and hard work contributes to survival. When I'd complain about a chore as a child, my father used to say that hard work never killed him, so I had to finish the task at hand. All the best to you.

  5. You tell a wonderful story of your ancestry, Kathy. I also love the old family pictures and the serious expressions on their faces.

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the hardships and joys of Allie and George in this first chapter and I can't wait for the saga to continue, (the intro to Margaret!)

    In many ways, this post makes me feel very fortunate to be living in the modern era.

    I'm happy and proud to be a (very small) part of the Dell's history!

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderMay 14, 2012 at 3:16 PM

      Thanks for your kind words, Toni. Do you think those serious faces were the result of having to hold the pose for such a long time? They sure do look resigned to their fate. I do need to correct you about one thing - you are most definitely not a small part of the Dell's history! Without your determined efforts to preserve and renew my ancestor's home for the past several years, it wouldn't any longer exist! That is a certified big part!! It's easy to imagine that somewhere George and Allie are smiling because you came along. I know their descendants are!

  6. Fabulous family history and so glad you are sharing it. I can't imagine the hardships women faced then compared to how easy we have it now. They were brave, strong and could teach us all a lesson today. Can't wait to hear more of the tale!!

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderMay 14, 2012 at 3:17 PM

      Bouncin Barb:

      I'm glad you're enjoying it. There's a lot more on the way. I'm excited to share what I'm discovering about life a century ago and it's good to know someone else is along for the ride. Thanks for visiting the past with me.

  7. I love to read these accounts of life in a different era. I am so thankful for these brave men and women and all they endured to make a life and home for their families. Women had hard lives, and such heartache in the loss of their children from diseases that, now, are so preventable. You must be so proud of your beautiful grandmother, for her bravery and her ability to endure to the end. We learn so much about perseverance, bravery and faith from our ancestors. Thanks for sharing this with all of us.

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderMay 14, 2012 at 5:13 PM


      I certainly am proud of Allie, and George too. I just hope I've inherited some of their emotional and physical fortitude. Several years ago when I experienced a terrible loss, my mother said to me, "You'll get through this - you're tough like me." So far she's been right, about both things she mentioned. So I guess some of the Brown's DNA has persisted! At 100, she's living proof.

      In coming chapters it will also be apparent how the cast of characters in this story was affected by individual personality traits that I'm uncovering as well as historical events, causing both good and disastrous results that changed the entire family. Are we really any different in our time? I wonder.....

  8. You know, strangely enough I read the account and wish I could have grown up in that era verse the mess we have now. It sure gives you a stronger impression of people who did live through rough times. Great post today.

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderMay 14, 2012 at 5:16 PM

      I know what you mean Odie. We appear soft and pampered next to our ancestors. They had their 'messes' too no doubt, which almost seem quaint next to the complicated issues of our era. Ours surely are more dangerous, interconnected and way more complicated. However, we only have mysterious old photographs and bits and pieces of accounts of their lives because they didn't think the details we love to hear about now were remarkable enough to record. That, and they probably were too busy trying to survive!

      I had this discussion the other day with the young guy making my sandwich at Subway. He brought up a good point: I may detest a lot of the dependence we have on technology, but it can be life-saving. Also, 100 years from now, thanks to Twitter and email, thorough descriptions of our lives will be there for all to see! Future generations will know how we struggled to survive the rough times and to work toward solutions for the age-old problems that have always plagued mankind. I'm so grateful you read the post today. Hope to see you here again next time.

    2. Odie I have the same feeling that you feel, I was born at the wrong time , you are so right ,we have it way to easy that's why the world is messed up. A Dell Rat All Ways Greg

  9. I'm reading this rather late and don't know if you will still get it, but I am thoroughly enthralled with this story of your family. You said that you were usually too tough to be soft, but I've never before read a person empathizing with children who died at a very early age. So Kathleen, it appears you have a nice blend of hard and soft in you. My grandparents were born around the end of the Civil War and my parents in 1909-1910. Unfortunately, none of them talked about their years growing up much at all. They came from Jacobus and Leader Heights. At last someone is doing that! Kathleen, thank you very much! I'm looking forward to more.

    Dell Rat Ron

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderMay 15, 2012 at 2:40 AM

      Ron -

      It seems like a characteristic of our parents' generation was to not talk about their past. In my family's case, this was apparently due to the traumatic nature of much that happened to them. Once I asked my uncle to write down a chronology of events. He did, but my aunt (his wife) told me to never ask him about it again because it upset him for days trying to get it all sorted out. Every time I find his hand-written account in my notes, it makes me sad that my curiosity caused him, even that much later, to remember the pain and confusion that he thought he had put behind him.

      My Uncle Earl was the oldest of my mother's (non-step) brothers. After he married, he started Brown's Orchards in Loganville, close to Jacobus. I just found out that he recorded an oral history for the York Co. Archives before he died. I'm terribly anxious to hear it! Now they want to do the same for Mother. If only we had the interest to ask questions when we, and our parents, were younger. I was busy raising my children, teaching and trying to do good jobs at both during the years when Mother's memory was more complete and most of my aunts and uncles were still with us. I was unable to make it a priority. That's why I'm compelled to get this story written down and illustrated with labeled photographs now, while I still have her, and most of my wits about me (My husband might differ...). I so appreciate your support and encouragement. Thank you, Ron!

  10. Kathleen this is by far the best post yet, my eyes filled with tears as I read your words . This takes me back to stories that my grand mother told me about my great grand mother and her people. My great grand mother lived on a farm near the Maryland line by her self till she was in her late 90s. The people back then put up with so much heart break and pain , that's what made them so strong. I love the story about how the Shady Dell came by its name, I have so much love in my heart for that house up on the hill. It played a big part in my life and the life's of so many others. I all ways new that there had to be a great story to be told about the Dell and I was right, Thank you Kathleen for sharing this story with us, I have been waiting all my life to hear it told. A Dell Rat All Ways Greg

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderMay 15, 2012 at 10:02 AM

      Greg -

      I'm so glad to hear from another Dell rat! I'm suddenly acquiring another family! I'm also very grateful to you Greg and all the other rats. If it weren't for your affection for my ancestral home, we wouldn't be writing about it this morning, and the chances of it being maintained by the Ettlines and then restored by the Deroches would have been very slim indeed. I was so afraid it would just end up existing in old photographs.

      Everyone's ancestors could probably be main characters in a fascinating story. You just wrote the first line of yours when you mentioned your great-grandmother who lived in her home until her nineties. Doesn't that just make you wonder what her life must have been like? Her trials and tribulations, her loves, her successes and failures? Since you carry her genes; how much was she like you? This is what got me looking for info on Tom's blog. (By the way, my father was born right over the Mason-Dixon Line in Union Bridge, Maryland, also on a farm.) They had hard lives by our standards, but they fielded everything that happened to them without psychiatrists, psychologists or specialists of any stripe helping them. Imagine that!

      My family's story is a giant mystery to be solved. I'm in the ironic position of researching and writing while simultaneously taking care of Mother. It's the best place to be however because she still is capable of having her memories tapped - as long as I don't pepper her with too many requests for them in one day. When I sit down across from her with my notebook, she looks at me skeptically and says, "I bet you have a Shady Dell question, don't you?"

      Thanks so much for your wonderful words, Greg. I'm happy to share whatever I know about our Shady Lady with others who care about her as much as I do.

  11. Hi Kathleen. This was a fantastic, fascinating post, and it was so lovely to have the photos to go with it. They do look a handsome couple, don't they. It must have been quite a thing for your great grandmother to take on those children, as she was still so young herself. My goodness, your heart breaks for them really, doesn't it, with all the babies they lost, plus the miscarriages. I'm finding this so interesting, and it must be really special for you, as this is YOUR family we are talking about here. Amazing! It certainly makes me realize how much easier womens' lives are now, compared to what the women in those days had to go through. Looking forward to the next instalment!

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderMay 15, 2012 at 1:45 PM

      Thisisme -

      Yes, my grandmother Allie Brown would have been a poster child for the Women's Movement had she lived in our time. My research shows that she was not an anomaly however. Women's options were mostly limited to house-keeping, marriage, and child-rearing when she was young. So in a very real sense, what she and other women living during her time endured gave rise to Women's Suffrage and the Liberation Movement in our time. It just was too late for her and countless others to reap the benefits.

      As my family's story unfolds it will be easy to see how they all adapted, the men as well, to societal mores and pressures, just as we do today. We all are a product of our times. Sometimes they coasted along without too much drama. Other years they were mired deeply in troubles. They had more than their share of tragedies too.

      They are very special to me. I so appreciate your interest in following their narrative, Diane. Although she still can't wrap her mind around all the fuss being made over her, Mother is grateful as well. When my daughter Elisabeth showed her your blog and told her you lived in Great Britain, she looked up at us quizzically and said, "She seems like such a nice lady. How did you say she knows about my birthday?"

      This attention is keeping her brain alert and truly enriches her life. We wanted her in her last years to be surrounded by love and to know her life mattered. Now thanks to you and her new 'family' on this blog, that circle has expanded to reach around the world! We simply could not ask for more.

  12. Kathleen - thank you so much for that lovely long reply to my comment, and it really is wonderful how Margaret is being surrounded by all this love. I couldn't be happier about that. As I already mentioned to dear Tom, I was truly touched that your mum was actually looking at MY blog in that photo!!

  13. Hi Kathleen. A wonderful beginning to a story that is compelling and honestly beautiful. I've been here three times just to revamp and take it all in. The events that followed Allie and her family through their early years were enough to send some of us running for the hills! Yet, so far in the story, she has endured. You are a great narrator and writer Kathleen. I know your family must be proud that you have taken on this task of bringing their story to us. Thank you...I look forward to reading the next installment.

  14. Oh goodness...I forgot to mention the photos! I love the old family photos, and, yes, the portrait of the George and Allie is sweet and, their expressions project an innocence about them, don't they?

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderMay 15, 2012 at 7:05 PM

      Thanks for reading Chapter One in the series, Susan. My goodness - three times! I never imagined others would find the same interest and inspiration in my family's story that I do. It means a great deal to me to have your involvement.

      Family members, mostly cousins, have been encouraging me to write this for several years now. When I go to them for any information they might have, they all say, "Do it now!" Many are still working and busy helping their children, so it's fallen to me. I enjoy writing so I'm glad to do it.

      It's had an interesting offshoot too. I've gotten in touch with first and second cousins, some of whom were out of my life since we were kids, and others I never met! When it comes right down to what's most important in my life, my family is at the top of the list. The more the merrier!

      I think we miss out on a lot of depth and authenticity in our experiences without people at our side who share common ancestors. Except for a few who chose to stay apart from their family, the Browns of my mother's generation knew and practiced that. It helped them survive and even thrive. Now I'm just bringing it full circle. Maybe it's a leftover instinct from our hunter-gatherer past.

      I look forward to having you back for the next installment, Susan!

    2. Kathleen Mae SchneiderMay 15, 2012 at 7:14 PM

      P.S. Susan -

      We are fortunate indeed to have many old photos to illustrate "In-Dell-ible Memories". The expressions on my ancestors' faces speak eloquently across the years to us. Do you remember "Carpe Diem" from the beginning of the movie (The Dead Poet's Society)? That's how I feel: they seem to say, "Seize the Day!" I can't wait to show you some teenage Dell rats from a century ago! Stay tuned...

  15. LOVELY Post:) I really like your blog and I want to follow, do you have twitter or FB??

    If you want some swedish decor inspiration, you can check out my blog:)
    Have a great week.

    LOVE Maria at

    1. Hi, Maria! Welcome to Shady Dell Music & Memories and thank you for choosing to follow! I know of two Shady Dell groups on Facebook but I do not operate them nor do I not have a Twitter account. I hope you will enjoy your visits to SDM&M as guest blogger Kathleen Schneider traces her family history and I bring you music, memories, smiles and laughs in my posts. Again, thank you, Maria, for becoming a new follower. I hope you'll join us again soon!

  16. I greatly enjoyed reading this passage of your family's history, Kathleen, and am looking forward to the next installment.

  17. Kathleen Mae SchneiderMay 17, 2012 at 4:49 AM

    Ashton -

    Thank you for visiting "In-Dell-ible Memories"! I'm as happy to share my Mother's story as you are to read it. I'm finding out so much fascinating information about life a century or more ago and my ancestors' part in it. I simply can't keep it all to myself!

    I'm glad to meet you and look forward to our next conversation.

  18. Wow! I couldn't stop reading once I'd started! I really wish I knew as much about my family history, this just shows how every person has a story in them. Such sadness, but also such joy, we cant even imagine the circumstances people dealt with at the turn of the century. I really can't wait to read more!

    Thank you Kathleen!

    Emma x

  19. Kathleen Mae SchneiderMay 19, 2012 at 2:02 PM

    You're most welcome, Emma. Thank you for your encouraging comments. I'm so glad you joined me in tracking the saga of my ancestors. Coming chapters will demonstrate more resilience and fortitude that characterized their short time on this earth. I think we learn so much about ourselves by finding out about our forebears - the good, the bad and the ugly! It seems to me they weren't all that different than we are when it comes right down to it. To paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, they did what they could, with what they had, where they were. May our lives set a similar example for those who follow us! I hope to see you here the next time.


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