Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Aunt Sadie's Memoirs, Part 5: Brother Lindholm, Uncle Jesse, and Grammy Crabtree

This is the fifth excerpt from my Aunt Sadie's Memoirs. Previous posts were: Part 1and Part 2 (Life on the Farm), 3 (Separated From the Family),  and 4 (Life With the Thomas Family).

Sadie's school: Milo High School, Milo, Maine
Source: Contributed by Jim Degerstrom
(be sure to visit Jim's blog by clicking on his name) 

Aunt Sadie continues:

Well, it is 1933 and I am a freshman at Milo High. The resident minister at the time was Brother [Ernest Paul] Lindholm. He was a really dedicated man and very solemn. He said he was called to be a missionary to Africa but he needed a wife before he could go. He was very sweet on Hope [Hope Crabtree McLeod, 1910-1993] when she visited but I guess his feelings were not reciprocated. I considered him a "stuffed shirt." He eventually married a nice Pentecostal girl from the Dover Foxcroft Church, went ot Africa, and was gored to death by a wild buffalo.*

From Clair: This is the only photo I have
of Sadie's brother, my
Uncle Jesse Hayward Crabtree, 1908-1950

I am going to relate a funny anecdote that is my "Jesse" story. Every one of us had their own "Jesse" story.

Our brother Jesse was retarded because he ate raw beans as a toddler and had numerous convulsions. Mama [Edith Giberson Crabtree, 1880-1946] never forgave herself for this tragedy and her dying wish was "Take care of Jesse."** He was part of our childhood and we all cared about him. He would sing folk songs to us and sit on the porch and [swing his feet] and sing his way through the hymn book. He was good-natured as long as he was fed and was a wonderful worker. Sometimes ignorant people teased him. He would get wanderlust and run away and hitch hike to Milo to see Auntie [Sarah Crabb Thomas, 1867-1938]. He was most welcome because of the work he would do and Auntie loved him too. 

We were ensconced at the dinner table with Brother Lindholm preaching when Auntie broke wind (commonly called a fart). Well, all the Aunts vanished into the adjacent pantry until they could stop giggling. Lindholm remained solemn and eventually the Aunts came back and the dinner resumed. Jesse spoke up and said, "Oh well, everyone makes a mistake once in a while."

I would like to mention some of my impression on living with Grammy Crabtree [Sarah Ann Kinney Crabtree, 1842-1935]. She was all but blind with cataracts and I would stay with her if Auntie had to go out. My main job was to help keep her away from the stove. She was "feisty" and we had many battles, which we both enjoyed. Her wit was keen and I could never get the best of her. Everyone who knew her has a funny story to tell about her sharp rejoinders. 

I went [home to the family farm in] Beaconsfield [New Brunswick] every summer vacation with a dozen or so pretty dresses, which I happily shared with Anna and Gladys


*From The Pentecostal Evangel, Dec. 21, 1940, page 8 (


The announcement made in the last issue of the Evangel concerning the death of Ernest Paul Lindholm, missionary under our appointment to the Belgian Congo, will have come no doubt as a shock to many friends of our beloved brother who was young both in years and in missionary service.

Brother Lindholm was born in Turlock, California, August 24, 1907, and passed away in the Congo on November 26, 1940. He was a graduate of Glad Tidings Bible Institute and for four years prior to sailing for the field held a license with the New England District. For some time he pastored a church at Milo, Maine.

In June, 1939 he was united in marriage to Grace Wallace. A few months later the couple sailed for the Belgian Congo, locating soon after arrival at Nobe together with Gladys Taylor and Angeline Pierce. At this new station Brother Lindholm has taken charge of building construction, in addition to language study and other missionary activities. 

The cable sent to us from the Congo conveyed no further information other than the brief message, "Ernest Lindholm with Jesus." We sorrow not for our departed brother, but we do think of the one out on the foreign field who has been left a widow, with the care of a six months old baby. Our sympathy is extended to Mrs. Lindholm and our prayers surround her, that through the deep waters of affliction
she may realize that comfort which the God of all comfort and grace alone can supply.

**Jesse died four years after his mother, and four years before his father. He was buried with them in the Evergreen Cemetery in Houlton, Maine.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Aunt Sadie: Life with the Thomas Family

Bird's-eye view of Milo, Maine, where the Thomases lived.
From a c. 1910 postcard
Source: Wikimedia Commons

This is the fourth excerpt from my Aunt Sadie's Memoirs. The previous posts are: Parts 1 and 2 (Life on the Farm), and Part 3 (Separated From the Family).

Aunt Sadie continues:

Now I will tell you about life with the Thomas family. The Thomases were wonderful people and welcomed me with open arms and hearts. Auntie [Sarah Ermina Crabtree Thomas] had six children and I would like to introduce you to each of them individually.

1. Eddie [William Edgar Thomas, 1892-1956]:

Eddie was not religious. (I think he was bitter about losing his beloved brother Blair in the War [World War I]). I adored him because he always laughed at my jokes. He lived in Abbot Village, Maine with his wife, Ina, and two children, Grace and Blair [named for Eddie's brother]. Grace was my playmate and I still hear from her. She is married to a rancher and lives in Nebraska. I think her brother Blair is dead. (By the way, Grace looks a lot like Auntie).

2. Blair [Blair Frazier Thomas, 1894-1918]:

Blair had passed on and I did not know him.

3. Hayward [Hayward Stanley Thomas, 1889-1956]:

Hayward was a Harvard graduate and a Methodist minister in Presque Isle, Maine. He was a delightful man with a wonderful sense of humor. He and his wife, Marian [Marian Whitaker, 1890-1982], had three children, Ruth, Esther, and Stanley. [There were four more children who died young]. I visited them a lot and loved to be there. They had wonderful toys and books for me to enjoy. Marian always told me she wanted to keep me but she had three children of her own. She lived in Portsmouth, New Hampshire with her daughter Ruth after Hayward's death. And I wrote and visited her until her death.

Hayward said he would rather spend a day talking philosophy with Papa [David Jewett Crabtree, Sr., 1875-1954] than anyone he knew. He loved what he called Pap's "horse sense." Do you know Pap prophesied exactly what is happening with China today? He knew China would be our ultimate enemy. I lost track of Esther, but I know Stanley died quite young and Hayward was devastated.

[Note added 4 Dec 2017: Hayward's son Stanley, died at the age of 91, in 2014. I am not sure if there was another Stanley who died young that Sadie might have been thinking of. Thank you to Nancy Kinney for pointing this out and for information on Stanley W. Thomas' death].

4. Perry [John Perry Thomas, 1890-1961] :

Perry lived in his own little home very near us. Auntie and I could walk over and play Parcheesi in the evening. Perry was a staunch Methodist. I think he helped Auntie with the farm. He was a dear sweet man. I spent many happy times with him and his wife, Effie [Effie Mae Gourlie], . One of [their] neighbors was fortunate enough to have a radio and we would all make a trek to their house to hear "Amos and Andy" in the evening. They had no children but took care of Effie's little nephew because his mother was sickly.

5. Annie [Anna Maria Thomas, 1888-1962]:

Annie was a little uppity and bossy. I suppose being the only girl she usually got her way. She married Charles Kinney [Rev. Charles Lewis Kinney, 1882-1977], no blood relation. He was a Methodist minister. They always vacationed with us. She declared the Crabtrees were on the Mayflower and I am inclined to agree with her as I have read several historical novels that mentioned an Abby Crab who was very fertile. That sounds like a Crabtree to me! [Note: The family name was changed in court in Milo, Maine from Crabb(e) to Crabtree in 1910].

6. Bernice [Bernice Clifford Thomas, 1899-1947] :

Bernice was the baby of the family and he didn't like me much. I gave him mumps when he was a grown man and he nearly died. Also, I was exploring the vast attic region (I never did see all of it) and I found a still. He was making home brew. Of course, I asked Auntie what it was. I don't think that endeared me to him. He just sort of ignored me.

Auntie's sisters Annie Bolster [Anna Thursa Crabb Bolster Field, 1883-1964] and Addie Anderson [Adelia Mae Crabb, 1871-1944] were around a lot. They behaved exactly like us. Lots of giggling and very jolly. Their favorite pastime was playing Parcheesi.

Next: Sadie's "Jess story"

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Aunt Sadie: Separated from the Family

This is the third installment of my Aunt Sadie's Memoirs. (See Part 1 and Part 2). There's a large cast of characters here and I've done my best to clarify who is who. You will want to note that there are three Sarahs:
1. Sarah Norma Crabtree Ayotte Ariel (my Aunt Sadie), who is the namesake of...
2. ... her father's sister, Sarah Ermina Crabb/Crabtree Thomas (Aunt Sadie's "Auntie"); and
3. Sarah Ermina's mother, Sarah Ann "Annie" Kinney Crabb/Crabtree (Sadie's "Grammy").

Click on any family member's name to see a profile and all sorts of ancestors and descendants that are linked, in turn, to more profiles. 

I am sorry that I don't have a picture of Sarah Thomas. If anyone reading this has one, I would love to use it for this post.

I am indebted to Patricia Parkhurst Gee Pickard, Pentecostal historian and author of some of the books that you will find listed by clicking on the "Books and Publications" tab at the top of this blog. She has answered my questions patiently and kindly. 

Note: Sadie talks about the great house at Pleasant View Farm. We all wished that we could see pictures of it. Patricia Pickard went sleuthing and found it. See "Sadie's Pleasant View Farm Found!" at on this blog.

Aunt Sadie continues:  

Pa's sister, Sarah Thomas [Sarah Ermina "Sadie" Crabtree Thomas], was widowed and caring for her aged mother [Sarah Ann "Annie" Kinney Crabtree]. She prevailed on Papa  [David Jewett Crabtree] to let her take her little namesake home. I was seven years old and lived with her until my marriage except for the two years I went to high school in Houlton [Maine].

Sarah Ann "Annie" Kinney Crabtree, 1842-1935
Sadie's "Grammy"

Richard Wayman Kinney, 1856-1932
Sadie's Great Uncle Richard Kinney, brother of Annie.

When she was dying, I was in the hospital having Dick [Dickie Ayotte] and I have the last letter she ever wrote asking me to name my baby after "Uncle Richard Kinney," Grammy [Annie Kinney] Crabtree's brother Richard Wayman Kinney].

"Auntie," as I will refer to her henceforth, lived on a beautiful estate in Milo, Maine called "Pleasant View Farm." You could sit on the veranda and see the lakes around Mt. Kahtahdin. The house was so vast I would get lost exploring. By the way, she brought up several children besides me. If one of her brothers or sisters died and left a child, she took that child in.

She bought a lovely piano and gave me music lessons. I took to that like a duck to water. She was a seamstress by trade and could make a man's tailored suit. I developed a love of sewing just from watching her.

Now I will go into her religious affiliations. This was in the heyday of the famous evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson. Pap was converted to Pentecost under her and Auntie followed suit wholeheartedly. She decided there must be a Pentecostal church in Milo. She bought a schoolhouse and refurbished it. She imported young ministers from the Glad Tidings Institute in California. She fixed beautiful apartments for them. Her motto was "If someone said 'Praise the Lord' it was hang up your hat and make yourself at home."

I think I met most of the ministers in the early Pentecost movement. Sister [Christine] Gibson, the Bickfords [Harold, Don, and Sunny], the Dearings [Rev. John and Anna], a Mrs. Duly, the Grovers [Rev. Fred and Jennie], Gene Kimball, and numerous others. I know Auntie and I went by train to all the camp meetings: Bridgewater, Marshall, Pea Cove... I remember one at Moosehead Lake (this must have been after Grammy Crabtree's death, my memory fails me on that). A lot of the zealots were barely literate. I heard a lot of fire and brimstone preaching. I didn't like it then and I don't like it now! My God is loving and forgiving.

At this point I would like to give a little background on my education. When I was four, I cried to go to school with the older children and Papa said, "Let her try it." So, I attended school in Canada for three years and learned my lessons by rote.

When I was enrolled in school in Milo, I was promoted to the fifth grade. Consequently, I started high school at 12, graduated at sixteen, married at seventeen, had Richard at eighteen. Would you believe the school bus at that time in Milo was a covered wagon drawn by a team of horses?

Next: Life with the Thomas family

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Aunt Sadie: Life on the Farm, Part 2

A horse and buggy in Carleton County, New Brunswick, c.1910
From the New Brunswick Provincial Archives Historical Images Collection

 Continuing Aunt Sadie's memories of life on the New Brunswick farm in the 1920s, from her Memoirs... Part 1 is here.

I don't know how old I was when I went to a store in Easton, Maine with Mama [Edith Rae Giberson Crabtree]. She would take her very tasty churned butter to be bartered for sugar and vanilla, etc. I was so thrilled it was my turn to go. We had a pretty little driving horse named Dolly. Well, one wheel broke off and threw Mama into the ditch and Dolly ran away with me on the three wheels. I was so terrified I lost consciousness but fortunately some men caught Dolly and I survived.

I also have scars from another narrow escape. Elva [Elva Crabtree Harris Rodriguez] was digging a grave for a dead bird. We always had a proper funeral at these times. I got too nosy and got hit in the middle of my forehead with the ax.

[Another time] Gladys [Gladys Crabtree Victory Bither Hudgins] was throwing wood into the shed and hit the crown of my head. I have a groove there to this day. 

I thought it was heavenly to go into a neighbor's house where it was so quiet you could hear the clock tick. I still love to hear a clock tick. 

We were dirt poor and didn't know it. We lived off the land. We picked strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, chock cherries, and wild hazelnuts. Fiddleheads and dandelion greens. We had great vegetable gardens and everything in its season was canned and put into glass canning jars and stored in the cellar. 

Bread was baked daily. Pancakes were on the table at every meal in case you didn't get filled up with everything else. Saturday was beans and steamed brown bread day. 

There was an icehouse where ice was stored in sawdust and we had homemade ice cream on special occasions. I can still taste the yellow transparent [apples] that grew only there. 

I remember walking two miles "Down Cross" (to the border between U.S. and Canada) to spend an Indian Head penny we had earned picking bugs off the potato plants. 

We had a dog named "Buster." He was great at bringing the cows in at milking time. We had a little brook where we could catch trout. 

Later in life, Gladys would give hilarious imitations of [friends and] neighbors. She had a gift of mimicry. Gladys and I were a year and a half apart and were like little twins. We were destined to be separated, but the bond was never broken and we adored each other always.

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

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Aunt Alma: Memories

Young Alma; she is also the fourth from the left in the
front row of the family photo used as the header for this blog

Alma was my mother's oldest sister, the first child born to their parents. When she was born on August 20, 1900 in Easton, Maine, her father, David, was 25 and her mother, Edith, was 20. 

My mother Elva, born in 1914, says that by the time she was growing up, some of her older brothers and sisters had already left home. When Alma married George McLellan, my mother was only 6 years old, so the oldest of Alma's children weren't that much younger than my mother. 

Because our immediate family lived out in California, far from most of my mother's relatives, I only got to see my Aunt Alma a few times. The time I remember best was when Alma visited our family in 1955. She would have been 55 and I was 11 and in the sixth grade. 

Alma took me to church, because she never missed a Sunday. She found a church close enough for us to walk. It was an Assembly of God, which I see via Wikipedia originated from the Pentecostal revival of the early 20th century that made a huge impact on my mother's family. The service was nothing like the one in the quiet and conservative Presbyterian church I was used to: The praying was loud, and the music was absolutely wonderful. I never forgot that experience. 

Here is another memory of Alma. This one is from my cousin, Cheryl Blakely, daughter of Alma's sister Faith:
I remember back when I was maybe 15 or 16, Alma and I used to write to each other lot. She had such a youthful mindset. It was more like she was a teenager than a woman in her 60's. She told me of how she'd go over to the retirement home across from the assisted living place where she lived and play piano for the "old folks" on Sunday. Heck, half of them were probably younger than she was. Lol. She thought it was such a scandal when she married Guy [Nickerson]. Oooh...she was 72, he was only 69....a younger man.

A third memory comes from Sheila Lafferty, a librarian at the University of Connecticut, who kindly contacted me with information about Alma:
My family came from Aroostook [Maine] Pentecostal roots and knew the Crabtrees very well. Some are in ministry and still have close ties with the family. I knew Alma as a young person and she taught me how to quilt in my early teens. 
Alma was so sweet to the three of us young girls, and we will always remember her kindness. And now, I would like to share a news clipping that Sheila sent to me. It's an amazing story about Alma and her family.

Mother Of Five Veterans Has Two More Enter Service, By Joseph Stofko
The Hartford Courant (1923-1987); Aug 24, 1952;
ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Hartford Courant (1764-1987)
pg. A6A

Plainville [Connecticut], Aug. 23 [1952].When Robert McLellan, 22, and his brother Murray, 20, leave Monday for their joint enlistments in the Marine Corps, their mother, Mrs. Alma McLellan, will say goodbye to the sixth and seventh of her sons to don armed services uniforms. During World War II, her five eldest sons, Russell, John, Lawrence, Eugene and Arnold, all served in various branches of the service.
"And that isn't the end yet," said Mrs. McLellan, "my eighth and ninth sons are already asking when I might sign up for their enlistments. Ivan is 16 and Daryl is 15, so that won't come about too soon." The family lives at 141 Whiting St., and also includes two daughters, Audrey and Jane. 

Five Run Garage Speaking of the older boys' service, Mrs. McLellan explained that Russell and John both served in the Army during World War II. Although they did not travel together, one followed the other through campaigns in North Africa, Italy, Belgium, and Germany. Lawrence was a member of the Seabees and saw duty in the Pacific Theatre. Eugene served as a member of the occupation army in Germany, and Arnold, a member of the National Guard, returned July 1 from service in Germany. These five boys, she said, have banded together and now operate the Highway Service Co., Main St., New Britain. 

Raised Family Alone Mrs. McLellan, who is also the grandmother of five children, has had the sole responsibility of rearing her family for the past seven years, [since] just before the youngest, Jane, was born. Few mothers in the country have seen so many sons in the service. 

Caption for accompanying photo [not included here for copyright reasons]: Left to right above are Lawrence, 27; Eugene, 25; Ivan, 16; Arnold, 24; Daryl, 15; John, 29; Murray, 20; Mrs. Alma McLellan; Robert, 21; and Russell, 30. Murray and Robert are joining the Marines; Ivan and Daryl, high school students, assist part-time in the service station. 

One last note: Alma's boys were handsome, at least if they were anything like Murray. He stopped by to visit my family in San Francisco when he was on leave and he stole my [7-year old] heart!