I started in once again on everyone’s perennial New Year’s resolution–get organized.

The same thing happens every year and every year I forget the reason I failed to get organized.

I started going through old files and then–“Hey, look at this!”

So, today instead of New Year’s resolutions (do I hear you saying thank God?) we have an amalgam of things vaguely related to health and healthcare that made me go, “Hey, look at this.”

I have written before about epidemics and their effects on our families. On a recent visit my sister-in-law brought some things her mother had stored away. One was this page of clippings about the death of relatives in Sprague, Washington. Three members of one family died within three weeks during a flu outbreak in the winter of 1928 and 1929.

Mary McDonald McHugh was born in 1872, the daughter of Patrick McDonald, N’s great-grandfather. She was my mother-in law, Marian’s aunt. I think my mother-in-law may have been a favorite niece and Mary a favorite aunt. Among the things my mother-in-law kept was this dress, crocheted for her by her Aunt Mary. It is about 100 years old now and looks like new, a tribute to my mother-in-law’s ability to organize and preserve.

Mary was the first of the family to die on December 29, 1928. Her one year old granddaughter, Harriet died two weeks later, followed a week later by Harriet’s ten year old sister, Dorothy. Virtually every member of the family contracted pneumonia following the flu and many were hospitalized in Spokane, a 50-minute trip now, longer then.

When one year old Harriet died her sister, her mother, and her aunt were also patients in the hospital.

It is difficult to imagine losing your mother and two children while you are suffering through a potentially life threatening illness yourself.

The other item I found is from my side of the family and a happier keepsake. It is the contract my mother signed with the pediatrician when my brother was born in 1942. The doctor promises to visit once a week for six weeks and again at two months. In addition my mother will bring the baby to the doctor’s office once a month for checkups and vaccinations for the first year. My mother promises to pay Dr. Grossman $45.00 in installments. On the reverse side is a list the payments she made, 14 in all, mostly for three dollars initialed by the doctor.

When I cleaned out my mother’s house I found every utility bill she had paid since she moved into the house in 1954, every card she had ever received and a host of other things that made me crazy. On the other hand I also found this contract and my father’s elementary school photos and my early report cards. So, while I never quite seem to get organized, I am grateful that I have so much to organize.

This is the last in a three part series written by Norman’s Uncle Jack about life on the Costello farm around 1920.  The first two parts can be found here and here. Again, the words are Uncle Jack’s, I have added some pictures.

Uncle Jack

Convenience was not to be associated with the family wash. The transition from scrub board to the washing machine marked the advent of the use of small engines to power appliances.

The internal combustion engine on the washing machine made lots of blue smoke, and, with the carbon monoxide, had to exhaust outside. Moved to an outbuilding, the function required another kitchen range to heat the water. The powered mechanism moved an agitator in the center of the machine, but each article had to be put through two rinses after leaving the machine. It all went through the wringer three times, and that wringer was hand operated. Since cloth will freeze dry, the winter wash was occasionally hung out. Wet weather, however, meant trying to find room inside on folding, collapsible clothes racks.

Power was also required to pump water, chop feed, and generate electricity. This stationary power plant was a primitive, gasoline powered, combustible engine, commonly known as a “one lunger”. Appropriately named because it had only one piston. It was inordinately large by modern standards. The combustion chamber was about the only part that was not exposed. While fascinating to watch, it was inefficient in operation. The “V” belt had not been developed; the one lunger moved the load with flat belts and these were often a source of trouble. Overall, things were better with than without.

The Model T

The Model T Ford was the family car at this time. The first Ford was purchased around 1918. Like all else on a farm, the family car was used mainly for necessities, for carrying the family to church on Sunday, and for emergency runs into town for machine parts or provisions. The first family automobile was not a Ford, but a Stanley Steamer. Operating one reputedly required more plumbing skills than mechanical. Eventually the Stanley failed and was replaced by the Ford Model T. The successful farmer, always resourceful, usually kept a supply of gasoline on hand in 5-gallon cans (no AAA to call on in those days). That reserve enabled a driver to “tank up” before heading for town.

Another reserve that was standard practice was keeping a supply of flour on hand for baking (bread was made four loaves at a time). The town of Sprague, like many communities, had a small flour mill. Wheat grown locally, especially Turkey Red, made an all-purpose flour, so the farmer saved a little and used his own. Flour was stored in 50-pound sacks, 6 to 8 at a time, upstairs on a landing near the bedrooms.

Before the consolidation of country school districts, the country school was a significant factor in the lives of farm families. The district hired its teacher from Cheney Normal, and arranged for housing for her with one of the families. Textbooks and curriculum and an occasional visit came from the County Superintendent.

The school building, a one-room frame, with anteroom in front for boots, coats and lunch boxes, was heated by a big wood stove. Most teachers were young. One 18-year old resigned after a few months because her “nerves were all unstrung”. Her successor was a more resilient 19-year old who enjoyed outdoor games even when rules were altered to her disadvantage. Teachers were thought to favor the children of families with whom they boarded so that was a cause of some friction. The “student body”, always small, was at one time in the 20’s all Costello cousins. For high school, students had to travel into Sprague.

Swimming at Crab Creek

Although farm families were notably hard working, there was some time for recreation. Summer picnics were big events, most notably on the 4th of July, at Sprague Lake. And family feasts of fried chicken, corn on the cob, and homemade ice cream, were memorable. On days off, Crab Creek was close enough for a car full of swimmers (in make-do swimwear).

Uncle Jack and Aunt Gertrude sledding

In winter, despite the hardships of the cold, children had their compensation in sledding,  and occasionally a large section of the yard was flooded to form a pond for ice skating.

Regardless of the time of year, water was critical to the farm operation. With all of those horses, the farmer that had insufficient water, especially at harvest, was in deep trouble. Money spent to increase well depth was good insurance. The windmill sat over a well casing that penetrated over 100 feet, and through a rather clever valve arrangement, sent water either to a faucet open at the time or to a cistern for storage.

The old windmill

The cistern was located on a hillside at an elevation well above anything in the house or farmstead so if the windmill was shut off, water came from the cistern and was gravity fed. Rather infrequently the wind failed to develop sufficient force to turn the big fan and pump. The the “one lunger” was called upon. With a device called the “pump jack”, clean cool water was sent to the open faucet.

Hot water for the house was provided through a system of coils in front of the kitchen range. Because no other heat for cooking was available, the cookstove was used daily, and the hot water circulated to a nearby galvanized storage tank. This system worked, but provided a limited quantity, enough for dishes, and perhaps a couple of baths. The family wash required a topside boiler, a copper lined job of 20 to 30 gallon capacity, sitting directly over the flames. The electric hot water tank did not arrive on the farm until the mid 40’s.

Construction of the cistern has to be one of the truly clever undertaking of that time. Reputed to have a capacity of 13,000 gallons, from the inside it appeared to be a concrete bottle with its lower 90% below the earth’s surface. Bottom and walls were concrete grout and mortar trowelled to a firm earthen surface. This thing was a hand dug hole with symmetry that approached an art form. Everything above ground was bricked up, with a 3-foot opening at the top, covered by a piece of sheet metal. Native grasses and weeds hid everything but the very top of the cistern and the overflow pipe. Another thing hidden was the fact that covering the cistern with sheet metal, with weights to keep it tight, did not prevent field mice from squeezing in and dropping to their doom, settling at the bottom, below the outlet. Now, while the water had qualities that made for strong teeth, those drop in visitors weren’t exactly an amenity. The horses never complained, but for the farmer, cleaning the cistern was a chore with some rewards.

Critical to the farming operation was the prudent marketing of crops. With only one payday per year, the successful operator combined all of his skill with perhaps some good fortune to net a profitable return for the year’s effort.

Winter wheat ready for harvest

He was assessed a handling charge immediately upon delivery, and from there on a month storage charge. Quotes would be available from several grain dealers at different destinations, sometimes involving a knowledge of freight rates. Market volatility and poor relations with grain dealers, who often profited handsomely at the farmer’s expense, eventually resulted in the formation of cooperatives. These co-ops did not completely remove the need for competent marketing but the atmosphere was made more friendly. Modern farm operators have computers and ready access to market information and also the advantage of governmental regulations limiting price changes. While there is still some wailing and gnashing of teeth, marketing has become easier.

The era ends! Following a typical auction of stock and equipment, the family moved to Spokane in September 1928. Due to health problems, John T. quit farming at age 55. Despite his disappointment with this early end to his farming career, the timing was somewhat fortuitous because the Great Depression was only a year removed. And that’s another story.

In the subsequent decade, wheat farming underwent drastic changes. Tractors replaced horses and, with the advent of farm trucks, harvested wheat no longer had to be sacked. The new method, called bulking, eliminated the highest paid member of the harvest crew, the sack sewer. And the young man who jerked the top of the sack to insure a filled sack, the jigger, was no longer needed. While bulking was progress, the less progressive cited commingling of grains in the co-op elevator as unrewarding to the quality producer. Grading by the State Department of Agriculture solved the problem.

Further progress came when electricity became available. A federal agency, the Rural Electrification Administration, made low interest loans for their service. Later, to, come indoor plumbing!

This brief account of farming in general and the Costello farm specifically, does not pretend to be a literary effort nor an exhaustive compilation of facts. It is presented, however, in the hope that it will help our posterity appreciate the challenge of early times in the wheat country of Eastern Washington, especially as experienced by John T, Elizabeth, et al.

John A. Costello

June 1992

This is the second part of  a series of the memories of Uncle Jack Costello about life on a farm in eastern Washington in the early twentieth century. You can read the first part here.

Jack Costello

Family farm diet ran heavily to pork because it was easier to preserve. Due to the lack of refrigeration, beef and poultry had to be fresh. Hog butchering was scheduled for cold weather when the natural cold helped prevent spoilage. Ultimately, the hams, shoulders and bacon were hung in the smokehouse to be cured by smoke and salt. Nothing was wasted. Feet were pickled and head cheese made from the boiled head. The family kitchen became a sausage factory as freshly ground meat was mixed with spices and forced into its casing (intestines). Meanwhile, a battery of large utensils filled the oven for the purpose of rendering fat. This project netted white lard which was stored in 5-gallon cans for the year’s supply “Crisco”, or the necessary ingredients for homemade soap. Overall, while butchering was hard work, it often took on an air of socializing. There was “more the merrier” attitude about numbers required, and neighbors worked on an exchange basis.

After many high priority chores were completed and the weather permitted “the man” hitched a team to a wagon and headed to the creek four miles away for firewood. These mid-winter forays produced the year’s main supply of heat, sometimes supplemented with a chunk of coal in the family room space heater. The wood was cut into usable lengths, split, and thrown into a large pile. If thoughtfully placed, this pile was passed on the way back from the outhouse, and cooperative family members helped keep the box on the back porch filled.

When the weather was bad, the farmer could take either harness or grain sacks into the sheltered area for mending. Thousands of burlap sacks were needed for the harvest. Used ones could be checked over in this off-season and those worth mending, attended to. Approximately 30 sets of harnesses required at least annual inspection. When sacks and harness were finished, attention might be directed to the potatoes in storage. A potato that had started to spoil, like a bad apple, needed to be discarded. So the stored potatoes needed to be inspected occasionally to reduce the number of rotten spuds. A bit of country humor is generated through the job requisite. One sorting potatoes must be able to make a decision. Another seasonal task for this time of year was orchard pruning. Taking a day or two, the 20 or so fruit trees would furnish the wood for use in the smoke house to cure the recently butchered pork.

Jobs that had to be squeezed in when time and weather permitted, were building maintenance and fencing. A quarter section of land has a circumference of two miles. Fencing generally consisted of three strands of barbed wire with cedar posts spaced approximately 15 feet apart. Keeping miles of fence in good repair was no small task, but still easier than retrieving stock that could easily trot over the hill. Especially in the spring, both horses and cows were wont to break out and take off for anywhere, maybe just for the sake of running.

Now came a time to await some serious cold. With no refrigeration, a good store of ice was essential to keeping some types of food during the next season. For this operation horses were hooked to a sled and driven to a lake where ice was cut into cakes of approximately 80 to 100 pounds, loaded onto a sled, and brought back to the farm to be stored. In the shed known as the ice house, the big cakes were carefully layered and covered with sawdust. Insulating qualities of sawdust made this ideal for this purpose but not easily removed from the ice cake that was on its way to the swamp cooler. This was an item developed through a little local carpentry, with some semblance to a modern refrigerator in size and shape, but without the cooling capacity. Ice and evaporating moisture on a burlap frame was the best available. This thing was usually located with ready access to the kitchen.

Did the outbuildings on a farm always take precedence over the dwelling, or did it just seem that the barn always got its coat of paint before the house? And in the house, probably the most important room was the kitchen. At mealtimes the numbers varied from family members plus one hired hand to the family plus seven or eight. Harvest time, especially, called for three big meals a day, all prepared on a wood stove. No electric appliance of any sort. Needless to say, on the successful farm the “lady of the house” didn’t lead the life of a lady. Besides the vegetable garden which needed tending because it produced a good portion of the family’s summer food, the orchard supplied fruit in great quantity, everything from the first cherries to late apples and pears, with crabapples and prunes between. Canned fruits, jellies and preserves were important for the winter menu and rhubarb, currants and berries of all sorts were canned in sufficient quantities, hopefully, to carry through to the next season. The root vegetables, such as carrots, turnips, and parsnips were dug late and stored in boxes covered with dry soil. Cabbage was a big ticket item because it was served frequently as slaw, and every family had a large crock, usually 20-gallon, for a store of sauerkraut. Not a gourmet item for everyone, but inexpensive and an easy keeper.

These foodstuffs had to be stored in a so-called root cellar because few farm homes had basements or storage areas under their living quarters. The root cellar provided both protection from freezing in winter and a cool, even temperature for year round. The floor of the building was poured concrete about six feet below ground level. Ten inch thick walls, also of concrete, rose about a foot above ground level. The frame ceiling had to be strong enough to support a healthy level of earth, the insulating agent. Double doors kept heat loss to a minimum, and a conventional pitched roof over all protected from rain and snow. Although the root cellar wasn’t ideal, it worked.

An unhappy feature of putting all these good things away was the timing factor. Most of the picking, canning and preserving coincided with harvest, or crush time. A harvest crew consisted of five men, and because half of the acreage was in crop and the other half fallow, teenage boys were sometimes hired to hoe weeds in the summer fallow. There was always a roustabout, and with mother and children, numbers at the table, if all together, would be 10 to 15. Since tables usually couldn’t accommodate that number, two settings were required. The harvest crew had priority, and since the meals were 6 a.m., noon, and generally around 7:30 to 8:00, hard work, fresh air, long hours developed the voracious appetites for which the harvest hands became renowned. The cookstove, fueled with wood and an occasional chunk of coal, boosted the temperature in this hottest part of the year. And natural ventilation, windows open, was the only air conditioning.

During harvest the evening meat was invariably served after dark. Some farmers had electrical generators but they were primitive, with insufficient juice to illuminate a room. The principal light at the evening meal was usually a kerosene lantern, suspended over the dinner table. The typical lantern had two very delicate cloth mantles wherein kerosene mixed with air under pressure was ignited to form a very bright but fragile light. While everyone was busy eating, cooking, and serving, the dull but elusive miller moth made the scene. Like many other flying insects, this thing has a strong affinity to light. The brilliance of the mantles turned the moth into a kamikaze character, with folks in the kitchen becoming spellbound over the impending disaster. After circling for a few short seconds, the moth would hit, and the mantle disintegrate. A small ash and dead moth were some place on the table. The meal continued after the kerosene lamp was replaced with either candles or a coal oil lamp. While this was not a daily occurrence, it did happen several times during a harvest season. While adults undoubtedly found it an unwelcome event, for the kids it really pepped up the meal.

The farm family was big on pork because pigs were raised on home grown food and pork was comparatively easy to cure. If the weather was bad enough to justify stopping field work, a very rare occasion, the crew went fishing. The Friday fish requirement was usually met by the man who weekly peddled fish. North Sprague was predominantly Catholic and church law at this time forbade meat on Fridays. There was a strong demand for fish and beef. Scriptures might have read, “Man does not live on pork alone.” due to the lack of refrigeration, purchases could last no more than a couple of days. After that was gone, it was back to pork, chicken, or whatever.

An interesting aside is found in the merchants. One was an Irish phenomenon who served his customers weekly, extended credit, and kept no written records. He was never found in error. The other, not identified as Irish but could have been, at least on his mother’s side. The second merchant sold meat, fish and sly grog. The nature of this business and the personality required records. By modern standards this would not be considered a convenience, but it was in those days. Although Sprague had a small dry-goods store, the Sears Roebuck catalogue was heavily relied upon, for everything from hats and shoes to all manner of household and outdoor equipment. Catalogue shopping, now an option for specialized taste, was then a family necessity. The Sears catalogue, used by the whole community, reflects the culture of the period. For the farm family it was one of the strongest contacts with the larger world.

Without the “blessings” of our present day technology, farm life must appear to have been the ultimate in isolation. In a time preceding radio and TV, written communication must indeed have been more valuable. Mail delivery to the boxes a mile away, where county and state roads met, was at best three times a week. Because volume of mail influenced service, farmers were anxious to add their names to mailing lists.

For voice communication there was the telephone, probably on the kitchen wall. The telephone was in a hardwood box with a mouthpiece extending from its lower front center. On the left side was a handheld receiver to be lifted from its bracket when one wanted to use the telephone. Not unlike a modern phone, a dial tone could be heard. On the right side of the hardwood box was the “crank”. With this the caller identified the callee. Each member on a party line had their own sequence of short and long rings that alerted the seven other members on that line that an incoming call was in process, that someone was trying to reach a neighbor.

For calls beyond the neighborhood, the one on the crank rang for the switchboard in town. The switchboard operator, an institution of many years, was never addressed by anything other than the title of her office. On the street or at church, she was Alice Vent, but on the telephone “Central”. The system was owned and maintained by the farmers. While it involved many miles of smooth wire, the poles were ten foot 2×4’s attached to fence posts, nothing sophisticated but it usually worked.

An occasional humorous situation developed when reception was weak. The user, making a natural assumption that the same was true at the other end, turned up the volume a couple of hundred decibels, and a comment usually followed that the phone was very incidental to the communication.

On the country phone line news traveled fast. “Rubbering”, listening to the neighbors, was rampant, but never acknowledged. For confidentiality, postcards were better.

I am pleased to share with you a piece written by Norman’s Uncle Jack about life on a wheat farm in Eastern Washington in the early part of the twentieth century.  This was written for a family reunion in 1992.  This is the first part, two others will follow in the coming weeks.  The words are all Uncle Jack’s; I have added some pictures.

Uncle Jack

John Thomas Costello (born 1874 in California) left agricultural pursuits long enough to rise to the rank of fireman on the Northern Pacific, which even at that time (circa 1904) had to be an early accomplishment. In June 1906 he married Elizabeth McDonald, a teacher, who was born near Walla Walla and had moved to Sprague with her family. She deserves equal credit for the success of the farm and of their large family. He later stated that his reason for returning to farming was “You never make it working for somebody else.”  It was a challenging era and posterity should have some knowledge and, hopefully, some appreciation for “early times” and their farming forebears.

Many Americans at that time were involved in agriculture, so it was not unusual that John Thomas, like his parents before him, turned to farming. Owning land then was a significant matter of pride and accomplishment for those that did.

Costello family Farm about 1916

While the city dweller and the professional or more formally educated might exhibit some feeling of superiority, those unassociated or actively involved could not appreciate the farmer’s station. With the advent of the internal combustion engine and the mechanical revolution, the industry is very different. The modern farm is “cash crop” oriented, highly mechanized with all of the conveniences, with transportation facilities that permit easy farm equipment mobility and nothing specific in domicile requirements. This significant change in farm life began around 1930 when tractors replaced the work horse.

Farmers have always been noted for their self-reliance and independence, sometimes at a terrible price, they actually had no alternative. The farmer saved and provided-or went without. Considering all of the manual labor required, was the farmer more peasant than entrepreneur? Owning their “place”, as the farm was referred to, then adding acreage as a good crop allowed, was an obsession with a farmer. The owners of the King Ranch in Texas lived by the rule of “buy land and never sell”. What farmer was different?

Top priority was for care of the animals, especially the horses, which usually numbered around 30. Here was the power needed to pull the equipment for tilling and harvesting. They also pulled the wagons, loaded with sacked wheat, the eight miles over rough roads to market. Several months of the year horses could be pastured on range land where they would graze on native grass, but for the most part they were held in or near the farm and had to be fed hay and grain daily. The feed was part of the crop. Hay was cut for winter storage as roads were cut through the growing wheat to make way for the harvesting combine that followed a few weeks later. Without these roads through standing grain, 20-odd head of horses would move through and destroy the wheat in front of the combine (the combine’s cutting device was off to the right side). The work horses, large animals weighing 1500 to 1800 pounds apiece, could easily consume their weight in hay and grain each year. Since their output would not vary significantly from their intake, disposal of tons of manure was an added task. As draft animals, feet and shoulders were in jeopardy. The shoulder problems required medication or adjustment to the harness, but work horses also needed horseshoes. In modern times the farrier’s is a specialized craft, but farmers became blacksmiths and did their own.

Veterinary services were expensive and not readily available. Stud service, however, was provided by a circuit rider that made a business of it. This was selective breeding to provide large, strong stock. Since the stallions lack the preferred temperament, all male foal went under the knife. Professional horse traders are prototypes to auto dealers (especially used cars) but for the most part the farmers looked to their own mares to provide replacement stock. Rendering companies were not available to dispose of a dead animal’s carcass so nature was again employed. Remains were removed to a remote location of the farm, there to await the coyote or carrion friends.

Of all the many chores and challenges presented by horses, the one most probably requiring most judgment and organizing skill was the selection of teams. Horses are of all types, from placid and gentle to spirited and mean. Most operations required only a few horses at one time but the combine harvester usually called for 24 or more. Arranging these teams into a harmonious unit was a test of real horse sense. If disagreement arose in the ranks, harness could be broken and other calamities occur, all resulting in delay.

The off-season winter months were times to repair and replace harness. Each horse was custom-fitted with approximately 20 pounds of heavy gauge strap leather. A shoemaker’s set of tools, with rivets and heavy waxed thread, was the mainstay of this operation. The equipment and skill that the farmer used to maintain 25 to 30 sets of harness also enabled him to keep his family’s footwear in good repair.

While the horse was the prime mover and first in priorities, a successful family farm required a full complement of domestic animals. With no “butter and egg” man serving rural areas, milk cows, at least two, were a requisite. The cow produced milk only after having giving birth (after a gestation period of nine months). With only one cow, a farmer’s family would be without milk for several months each year. Reproduction, as usual, involved the male of the species. Unlike the equine with delivered stud services, the bovine reversed procedures and made the farmer deliver the female to the bull’s quarters. Fresh milk, cream, and butter were all accepted as standard fare, but an important by-product essential to the family’s wellbeing was an abundance of skim milk to feed pigs. Their population ranged from 2 or 3 to 10 or 12, depending on the presence of brood sows. In their absence, young pigs (weaner pigs) were purchased. Chickens ran free, which made egg gathering a real detective chore. Nests had to be discovered before mother hen decided to start setting, which would be bad business for fertile eggs. But that is another chapter under the heading “kid’s work”.

The farm dog, “man’s best friend”, fueled only by table scraps, worked like the rest. Due to the incompatibility of chickens and hunting dogs, farm dogs ran to the working types. The Costello’s Max was a generic dog, black and white, with some semblance to a shepherd, and smart.

Max with Costello children

While Max could assist in moving horses, his real worth was demonstrated when cows figured in. Although never many cows, bringing them in for evening milking was “kid’s work” and Max helped if needed. It gave him an opportunity to grandstand a bit because he knew cows, unlike horses, can’t kick while running. The procedure started with a loud, clear call for Max, directed more toward the cows than the dog. Same cows, same dog, no need for the kids. When the cows heard the call for Max, they would head for the barn. The smart dog got a pat on the head, and the smart cows got milked. No shaggy dog story-this is the way it was.

The first half of this post is Pat’s, the second half is Judy’s

The Salt name is not an easy one to research, as you might imagine.  Salt Lake City always comes up when you search.  As does salt lick, salt mine, and salt as a commodity, There is an English village called Saltaire that has a website and forum and Saltair Ohio, which does not.  It was on the Saltaire forum that I ran across someone who might be a cousin I hadn’t heard of before, and she is in this country.  The connections in England are very unclear in my database and, I think, for many other Salt researchers in this country.  There is no direct connection yet to Saltaire in England, although many wish there was, since it was a planned town built by Sir Titus Salt in the mid to late 1800s.  We’re always intrigued by maybe being related to someone with a title!  But in this case it would have to be a collateral line and back at least several generations.  In fact, it is unsubstantiated at this point that my emigrant ancestor, Edward Salt, came from England, although that is the most likely origin of my Salts.

Anyway, more recently I heard from the possible cousin, with just enough information to connect her with a collateral line of my Salt family.  The odd thing is that her family is from the small town of Sprague, Washington.  I didn’t know that any of my Salt relatives had gone to Washington.  And Sprague, Washington is where Judy, well her husband, also has relatives.  How weird is that?  And it turns out they were there at about the same period of time.

location of Sprague

I know nothing about exactly when or why my Salt relatives migrated to Washington.  It looks like two brothers both made their ways from southwestern Ohio to Washington in the late 1890s to early 1900s.  According to the federal censuses Fred was in Sprague for the 1900 census, and raised his family there until sometime between 1920 and 1930.  By the 1930 census he and his family were in Cheney, Washington just up the road from Sprague.  The other brother, Wilcher, shows up in the 1910 census in Snohomish county (right on Puget Sound) and apparently lived there the until his death in 1975.  It is not clear when he came to Washington, or whether his brother influenced his migration.

So I get an email from Pat saying, ” I got this email from another Salt, take a look at it and let me know what you think.”  At this point Pat has only a sense that Sprague is familiar for some reason, but doesn’t remember all the details of my family tree.  It’s late, I skim the email not really paying full attention, then SPRAGUE jumps off the page, grabs me by the neck and yanks me back to full attention.  I could hardly believe it.  How could Pat have relatives in this tiny town in Eastern Washington?  Better yet, dare I hope that Pat and Norman are related in some way, however distant?

I know the history of our Sprague relatives and I have written about it in this blog, most recently in my piece about visiting the farm in Sprague that still belongs to Costello relatives.  Our Costellos came to Sprague from California as the Homestead Act opened land to the public.  Owning land was the great dream of families who had no chance for land ownership in the famine-starved Ireland of their birth.

So, is there a relationship between these two families?  Of course, just because people live in the same place doesn’t mean they are related, but Sprague is a small town, really small. In July of 2009 there were 472 people living in Sprague.  The town lost population during he latter half of the twentieth century as farming became less profitable and small farms were purchased from their original owners and consolidated into large farms. In 1900, when we all had relatives in Sprague, the population was around 2000.  The population was divided into three parts, North Sprague, South Sprague and Sprague city.

Ah, as someone else said, there’s the rub.

Mary Queen of Heaven

Norman’s people lived in North Sprague and Pat’s lived in South Sprague.  The two areas weren’t separated by a raging river or a mountain range, they were separated by something stronger, religion.  South Sprague was the Protestant part of town and North Sprague the Catholic part.  And never the twain shall meet.  Well, maybe not quite that dramatic.  Norman’s great-grandmother recalls being beaten with a switch for playing with a Protestant child during her girlhood in Ireland.  Sprague wasn’t nearly so intense, but in general, the two parts of town lived separate lives.  The Catholics built and attended Mary Queen of Heaven and sent their kids to school there.  The Protestants built their own churches and schooled their kid in public or church schools. My mother-in-law recalled life on the farm in the 1920’s being centered on family, church, and school.  Change comes slowly, but like it or not it comes.  After all, my husband married a Jewish girl, a population not represented in Sprague in 1900. Pat’s people moved on, at least a bit, ending any chance for interaction.

So the sad fact is Pat and I can’t find a family link, yet; but the pursuit of genealogy is loaded with weird coincidences, maybe the next one will provide the link that we need..