Mittie Artimissie Miller Ayres

First school days-- I started to school at Nakomis, Illinois, when I was six years old. The teacher called me Middie, Not Mittie.
One day I was laughing and had to go up front and sit on a seat, then a boy did something and he had to come up and sit there too.
I felt awful embarrassed. The schoolhouse was a one-story room.
My Daddy was a policeman at that time and while we lived at Nakomis, Bill and Lou were born.
My folks lived in Indiana and when they were married they moved way out west to Illinois.
We moved about 8 or 10 miles from Nakomis into the country and that is where Mollie was born.
It was a little ranch, but Dad never farmed any that I knew about.
I went about one and a half miles to school. Two boys that were neighbors always teased me. Their names were Kellogg.
We moved from there to a place they called Ramsey and moved into a house with another family, a man, wife and daughter, just the age of me.
Beleam was her name. When her mother called her she would say what!
And when my mother called "Mittie" I would answer "whatie".
There was a circus in town; I was allowed to go with some other girls.
My Dad gave me $10 to buy me a new dress, but I could not find one that was pretty so I went home without any and they all laughed at me.
We moved from there up into the woods in a little log cabin. We had a potato patch.
Mother hoed the potatoes and Bill and I had to help.
I didn't want to and the very first whack I cut my big toe and then I had to go into the house.
I had chills while we lived there and was awful sick.
They made me drink tea made from burdock roots. It was real bitter and I sure hated it.
I got well though whether it was the tea or not, I don't know.
I can remember my Daddy getting up early in the morning and sitting by the fireplace and singing.
One morning after we had eaten breakfast, a man came along that my Dad knew.
However, Mother and I did not know him. This man asked Dad to come go with out west and Dad went.
We never saw him again for four years, however, we heard from him a couple of times.
I was then 10 years old. He told my mother to write to her brother (Levi Riddle b.1853) to come get us and we could live with them until he got back.
My uncle came and got us and took us five mile north of Nakomis, where he lived.
It was a two-day trip. My uncle was a farmer, and he had horses, cows and chickens.
We stayed there six months. That was corn country and they raised a lot of corn.
The soil was rid, deep and black. However, it was not very satisfactory living there.
In the winter it rained and the mud was so deep that it took two or four horses hitched to the front running gears of the wagon to pull it through.
The wagons were built with a box on it and a spring seat.
Before we went to live with my Uncle I went and stayed with him and went to school.
One day I got homesick and I went out in the garden and bawled.
My Uncle Levi Riddle heard me and asked me if I was homesick. I told him yes, so he took me home in one of those wagons.
While I was there my mother sent me a doll and I sure like it.
But the boys teased me, so I kept it in a drawer and would just look at it.
I was sure glad to get home, then I could sew for my doll.
After being with my uncle six months he moved us to Nakomis into a brick house.
We lived upstairs and paid $3.00 per month. Mother and five of us children lived there.
Mother went to work in a hotel as a dining room girl. I made Mother's clothes.
She was little and wore calico dresses and white aprons.
I don't know when I learned to sew, but I sewed for all of us.
Charlie was just a baby and I had to take him to mother where she was working so she could nurse him.
I carried him on my hip. Mother made big wages, $2.00 per week, most people only got $1.50.
We never went hungry nor dirty nor ragged because I could sew and mend.
Sometimes mother would bring good food home from the hotel in a basket.
I don't remember how long we lived there. My Aunt (Eliza Miller) and lost her mind.
She was a good woman and I loved her. They could not take care of her.
So I took Charlie and went out to stay with them.
I cooked the meals and took care of Charlie.
They had a boy about Charlie's age and a new baby, Violet.
I took care of them too.
The Uncle bought a new sewing machine and I sewed. I made underwear, long pants from white outing flannel. I also made suits for the boys.
We went visiting and they asked how much we had paid for the boy's suits.
They had no idea I had made them.
My Uncle and my Mother decided to move to the Blue place and we were all there together.
My uncle had five children, 2 girls and 3 boys and we were 3 girls and 2 boys.
My Aunt got so bad that they had to take her away.
Mother got a job and I was left in charge of things.
I baked bread. Every other day I would bake six loaves of bread.
We had lots of milk, butter and eggs.
One winter mother stayed home and we all went to school.
Mother, my uncle and all the little kiddies moved to another place.
I stayed in town and worked for my board and went to school.
One day I came home from school and the lady I was staying with said that there was someone in the parlor that wanted to see me.
I went in and it was my Dad. He said he had come after his children.
He thought my mother would be dead.
She was such a puny little thing when he left, but she was very much alive.
He went to school to see all of his children and I went with him to town.
I ran into the house and told my mother not to have anything to do with him.
He left the next day and went way out to Kansas. We did not hear from him for three years.
Then he wanted a divorce from my mother, but she would not give it to him.
My mother lived in town and took in washing and other work to support the kids.
I stayed with some other people and worked for them in their store and got $12.00 a month.
While I was there it froze hard one time and the pipes froze up and broke.
The water came upstairs and there was about two inches of water all over the floor.
The owner of the store wife and I mopped up all that ice water and we had to get our feet wet.
In a few days I came down with pneumonia and I was awful sick.
Nobody thought that I would live.
They came one night with sheets to lay me out.
I was eighteen when this happened.
I told my mother that I was going out of this world.
My mother begged me to stay.
It seemed like I could do either one, but she wanted me to stay so bad that I tried real hard and I just seemed to get better.
When I was well enough to ride some friends came and took me out into the country.
I stayed three for three weeks. One time when I was out in the yard and I was very weak and old turkey gobbler chased me.
I ran for the house but just got to the step.
About a year later my uncle went out west and left his five children with my mother.
There were five of us and all of my uncle's children, and even mother got the measles.
Mother was the sickest.
She talked out of her head. She could see things on the door and she was just awful sick.
I did not get the measles until everyone else was well.
I did most of the taking care of those that were sic.
When I came down with the measles., I was really sick. I did not get well.
The doctor said the only thing that would help would be a change in climate.
So mother sent me to Indiana.
Some of Mother's people and some of Dad's people both lived in Indiana.
I took Charlie with me.
He was six years old. We went by train to Evansville.
When we got there we went to a hotel.
I forgot my suitcase and I told Charlie to wait right there until I came back.
I got lost and I did not know where I left Charlie.
I kept walking and I finally found Charlie, right where I had left him.
When we got off the train there were three taxi drivers and they all wanted to take Me.
They got into a scrap and a policeman came along and asked me which one I wanted to go with and I said none of them, I would walk.
The next day we took the boat at noon. It was awful hot on the boat.
It would have been all right if we could have left our door open, but there were some Negroes on the boat and I was afraid, so we shut the door and sweat.
When we got off the boat there was not anyone or any houses even.
It was dark and Charlie was sick from riding.
We saw a light and Charlie and I walked to this light.
When we got there we found it was one of my Uncles.
This uncles was Uncle Matt Riddle. He was not married, but while I was there he married a lady with six children.
This uncle took us to the river and we got on the boat and went several miles to a place that was called Rono.
We were to find some people there that were relatives and stay with them until my Grandfather came after us.
Grandfather Riddle came and he had two horses.
I did not think I would be able to ride a horse that far, six miles, but that was they way those people traveled in those days.
It was too rocky to have wagons.
They put a sack of flour on the horse I was riding and Charlie was on the horse behind my Grandfather.
There were nuts of all kinds that grew in the woods and also sweet roots, wild grapes, papas and many good things to eat.
No one needed to go hungry--that was sure.
At my Grandmother's they lived different. We always had hot biscuits for breakfast.
They had a fire in the fireplace and would take it to the cookstove and back to the fireplace and cover it up.
They had a garden and the best tomatoes I ever ate.
This lady of the house was my Grandfather's third wife. There were six boys there.
Some were my mother's half brothers and some were the wife's boys.
She made a blanket while I was there. They had some sheep, pigs and cows that just ran wild.
The day I got there they were plowing the potato patch with an ox team. The Grandmother had her wedding dress, which she showed me.
It was a new calico dress. She just kept it put away.
She had a paper of pins that she had used for ten years. There were only two or three pins missing.

While I was there I went to see my Grandfather Miller.
It was seven miles and we had to go on horseback.
Grandfather and Mother lived with his daughter Emma.
He was an old man and she was an old lady.
Uncle Albert lived a little way from where my Grandfather lived.
Uncle Albert Miller lived in a log house.
It used to be a schoolhouse, in order to get upstairs you had to go up a ladder.
You had to go out doors to get to the kitchen.
I went and stayed all night with them.
They had a boy that just looked like Charlie.
He was the same age and if you looked at them from the back, you could not tell which was which.
I do not remember how many children they had, but two of them were not right.
The father and mother were first cousins.
The boy died, but the girl grew up and was married, but she was not right.
There were three boys that were grown.
The morning I was there they had a big dish of wild onions with thickening in them for breakfast. Nothing else!
While I was there, they were having a dance.
I went back to my Grandfather's to get my dress. I got the gingham dress and I wished I had gotten the wool one.
I only had three dresses, the gingham one, the wool one and the calico one.
I went to the dance, but I do not remember about it.
I liked my Grandfather and Grandmother Miller.
My Grandfather was always singing and he made up his own songs.
Everybody liked my Father, and he was a good fellow. He was a good clean man, but just got in bad company.
I liked my Aunt Emily and the girls too.
While I was there they had a celebration for Harrison who was elected president.
They had big tables made of new lumber. There were enough beans for everyone.
There were 1000 people and speakers by the dozens.
We went to the celebration in the front running gears of a wagon with an ox team.
We would ride a while and then jump off and walk without stopping the team.
There was a big dance and I went and had a good time.
My Grandfather Riddle heard that I was at the dance and would hardly believe it.
I told him I belonged to the Church, but I joined the Presbyterian Church so that I could dance.
I went back to my Grandfather Riddle's and my Mother wrote for me to come home.
My mother had one sister, Mary or Mollie, she went by both names.
I went to see her while I was there. She had one of my Uncle's girls with her.
The Uncle that was staying with my mother and his children.
One of the girls was taken to stay with my Aunt Mollie and she was mean to her.
So when we got back, my Uncle went and got her.
While I was staying with Aunt Mollie she had a party for me, but I was sick and did not care about the party.
While everyone was at the party I went into the bedroom and lay down on the floor and went out to sleep.
My Aunt was mad, but I did not seem to care.
I had a good trip home and was well and strong again.
While I was sick all of my hair came out and when I came back my hair had come in curly and people hardly knew me.
I was sure glad I did not have to stay in that country.
Not long after I returned home my mother took three of her children and my Uncle's children and went to Calhan, Colorado, to be with my Uncle., who had gone out before.
Lou and I stayed with the lady in the store where I had worked.
Lou went to school and I worked in the store for about a year.
Then we went to Calhan, too. It was a long trip Lou was little for 12 and she went for half price.
Some men thought I was a rich farmer's daughter.
There was a fellow that was a brother to the people that owned the store.
He wanted me to write to him.
I wrote to him, but he did not get my letter and afterwards he wrote and wanted to come out there, but I wrote and told him not to come.
He was a rich Jew, but I did not want him.
When we got Calhan, it was dark when we got off the train and while walking around I stepped off a high platform and fell right into a large bunch of cactus.
Some of the boys came to meet us. Mother had taken up a homestead and lived in a new two-roomed house.
My Uncle and his children were also there.
Mother and my Uncle and his boys went to Colorado Springs to work.
That left Bill, Charlie, the girls and I at home. There was a school and we all went to school.
Me along with the rest of them. The teacher was Anna Ayres.
She had a brother, who was coming to see her. He did not come for a while and in the mean time we moved to Colorado Springs.
While we were on the ranch we had a mile to walk to school.
I never allowed myself more than ten minutes to walk that mile, and one time I was going to Colorado Springs on the train.
I was late, but they saw me coming and the train waited for me and I ran.
Everyone laughed because I could run so fast. When we moved into Colorado Springs we moved into a nice house.
Mother was now making $25.00 per month as a servant.
So we were able to live pretty good. My Uncle and his children were living in another place, all except Violet. She was with us.
She was the youngest of all of us. As soon as my Uncle's girls were grown up, they would not stay with him.
He had gone into the sheep business and made a lot of money.
But the girls lived in Colorado Springs and worked for years.
While we lived in Colorado Springs we all went to school.
There were four of us girls all young ladies.
One night the teacher's brother came to call.
I had been taking a bath and my hair was all down; I had not put all my clothes on.
There came a knock at the door and thinking it was one of the girls I went to the door and there stood a young man.
I did not know who he was, but he introduced himself.
He had a letter introducing himself to my sister Lou. He was our teacher's brother.
I went and dressed and entertained him when he left that evening he wanted to come back and I told him I thought my sister would be home the next time he came.
The next time he came, my sister was there, but he did not seem to talk to her.
He wanted to talk to me. He kept coming and I got pretty well aquatinted with him.
I found he was a widower and had two lovely children.
He was living with his father and mother. He had three or four sisters at home that were grown.
The children did not have very good care.
The girls were not good to them and I felt sorry for him and the children.
When he asked me to marry him, I made up my mind I would. I knew I could be a good mother to his children.
My mother was working and when she would come home she would find Jim there.
She did not think much of him, but I was 22 and she thought I was old enough to know what I was doing.
After I had know him about a month we made up our minds to get married, so we rented a house and bought new furniture.
The bedroom set was red cherry, the dresser had a marble top.
There were two bedroom sets, rocking chairs, tables, chairs, stoves and cooking things.
We were married in our home. Mother and my sisters and brothers and his mother and sisters were all there.
My dress was wool cloth that had tucks all over it. It was a dark tan trimmed with changeable red and blue silk.
It was made with a tight fitting Basque and a full skirt. I made it myself.
It was the 23 of November, 1890. The Daddy Ayres wore a black suit. His children, Glenn and Grace were there. Glenn was five and Grace two.
A Methodist Minister came to the house and married us.
Mollie, Lou and Violet stayed with us. This was our new home, but we only lived in this place about a year. Dad had a house and lot,
but he had it rented so when were married he just let these people live there and we rented another place.
Later he traded the house for a shoe store. It was more than he could do, so he got a partner and later they went broke.
We moved to another house, a nice place,
and while we were there Gertrude was born.
When Gertrude was about six months old, Daddy Ayres's mother died. They shipped her to Kansas to bury her. Violet's Dad came and got her.
Lou got herself a job in a newspaper office.
Mollie stayed and helped me after Gertrude was born.
After Mother Ayres died we moved into the old home with Granddad Ayres. There were Dad's Two sisters Kate and Elda, with us four or five months.
Then the girls went to Kansas. We then moved again to a little house.
While we lived here Olive was born.
When Olive was a month old we moved 25 miles east of Colorado Springs onto a homestead. Dad had a lot of mining stock. He took up the homestead.
He did not have any money so he traded his mining stock for a wagon, team and harness and twelve head of cattle.
He bought a house and moved it onto the place and then added two more rooms. He broke up forty acres and planted it to oats.
The first year we had a nice garden we even raised peanuts, but we had to haul our water.
The first year we had a wonderful crop, but after the crop was harvested, Dad went to get water one day and he gave the fellow where he got the water the hay he had cut,
if he would take care of the cattle, and we moved back to town to the same house we had left.
Then Father Ayres came back from Kansas and he and Dad ran a shoe store. The two sisters of Dad's came back and they had a double wedding.
We moved to Canyon City, Colorado. We lived by the railroad and while there, Charlie was born. Dad clerked in a shoe store.
It was Saturday night and the kids and I had gone to bed. Just After we had all been in bed for a while there was a knock at the door.
Whoever was there stood there and knocked at the door for half and hour and just knocked. I was sure afraid but he finally left.
In the store where Dad worked, he was sitting fixing shoes and another man sitting by him was working also.
A man came in the door and walked up to the one sitting by him and shot him. Dad had to be a witness and it was his say that hung the man.
He sure hated it, but there was nothing else he could do.
We moved again to a little brown house under a hill. There was a nice garden and fruit trees. We had a cow.
The children had a swing and we were happy in this place, but we moved to another place, about twenty acres in an orchard, a lot of walnut trees, too.
We raised celery. The house was adobe and there was a gin lawn. There was a mulberry tree by the back door.
While we lived here Martha was born. Dad peddled apples.
He took a load of apples to the prison (Gertrude and Olive went with him, that day it was quite an experience for them) and brought back cider.
While we lived here Gertrude started school.
Mother, Bill, Charlie, and Millie lived in Canyon City, at this time.
Lou and Mollie were both married and the, "Charlie, Bill and Mollie and her husband with Mother moved to a ranch about twenty miles from Canyon City.
I got sick and had to have an operation. Mother took the children to the ranch with her.
I was in the hospital getting along fine, so Dad and Glenn went to Glenwood Springs.
As soon as I was able, they took me out to the ranch where mother and the children were.
There was Mother, Mollie and her husband, Tom Heitt and their two children, Ellen and Madge, and Violet were there.
Grace, Gertrude, Olive, Charlie, Martha and myself and Charlie. All in a little two room hose.
At night the house was just one big bed.
One morning everyone was busy getting their beds put away, Tom and Mollie slept in a folding bed and after a while Mollie came in and asked where her baby was.
She looked all around and o one seemed to have her.
Tom said, "Where did you leave her?"
Mollie said, "In BED!" Sure enough Tom had folded up the bed and when they opened it up there she was, still sleeping.
We did not stay with Mother very long. Dad came after us and we went to Glenwood Springs to live.


Contributed by Linda Rangitsch (29 December 2000)