Sunday, April 13, 2014

Aunt Sadie: Life on the Farm, Part 1

My Aunt Sadie

My grandparents, David and Edith Crabtree, had 13 children between the years of 1900 and 1928. By 1985, five of them had died: Jesse (1950), Beecher (1964), David, Jr. (1974), Clifford (1981), and Alma (1984). 

My Aunt Sadie (Sarah Norma Crabtree) had been married twice;  her second husband, Joseph Ariale, died in 1977 and her first husband, Joseph Ayotte, in 1987. She never got over burying her beloved son, Dickie Ayotte, who died in a plane crash in 1981 at age 43. She must have been very grateful for her daughter, Jane (we called her Janie), and her grandchildren. I know that Sadie loved Janie's son, Joey, very much and he was very good to her.

Starting in 1993, Sadie grieved again and again as sister after sister died: Hope in 1993, Anna in 1996, Bess in 1997, Elva in 1998, Lois in 1999, Faith in 2001, and Gladys in 2002. Sadie was the last of the Crabtree siblings, and this is what she wrote in her My Memoirs (unpublished, undated manuscript, written sometime between 2002 and 2009, and all typed up by her grandson, Joey):

I thought I was so clever to outlive all my family but I feel like a marionette with all the strings cut. So alone and so lonely. 

I would like to share with you what Sadie wrote about her early days on the family's farm in Beaconsfield, New Brunswick, Canada.

I was born January 14, 1920. The flu epidemic that killed millions after World War I was raging and our household was down with it (except Hope). Mama had just gone through the worst labor of her whole life; I was a breech birth (which today would mean an immediate Cesarean). I was told it lasted three days. The nearest doctor was ten miles away over roads impassable with snow. I weighed 5 pounds and Hope took me in her bedroom and saved my life. Mama would hug me and say, "You were so much trouble, but I love you anyway." 

Sadie and her older sister,
Hope, who saved her life

So, my earliest memories are of Beaconsfield. Our nearest neighbors, the Bartleys, had eleven children, etc. etc. all through the settlement--kids galore. Too bad [President] Bush wasn't around, he might have taught them abstinence. The only known birth control was nursing the baby.  
We each had a counterpart in the Bartley family. Gladys and I had Herman and Austin. 
The mode of travel was horse and wagon or horse and buggy. If a Model T Ford went by, everyone ran out to see it.  
Everyone had an outhouse. The Bartleys felt a little superior because they had a three-holer and ours was only two. The Sears and Roebuck catalog served as toilet tissue but the shiny pages were very popular.  
The neighbors were very good to us. Gladys was very shy so she would nudge me to ask for a cookie. We were never refused. 

Next: A Runaway Horse


  1. I'm waiting for the next installment with bated breath. Sadie had a way with words and a sense of humor. - Cheryl

  2. Same here! Hurry!

    This is so amazing to hear this in the very own words of one of the girls. I can almost feel what it would be like actually being there with them - what life was like, their relationships with each other, all that stuff.

    I know they had a lot of challenges back then and life was very hard, but at least they didn't have the added responsibility of having their apron pockets buzzing with text messages all day long and into the night.


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