My Parents

Edward Oliver Worden and Leona Merton


by Zaida Marie Worden Ross

4 October 1976

I do not know when they met. His home was north east of Bronson, Kansas in Bourbon County, and at times she stayed with her Grandparents, Edmund Dorr and Louisa May Wolfe. Their home was near the north east corner of Allen County, Kansas. North of the Wolfe farm lived Mr. and Mrs. John Close. In the summer of 1889 Ed worked as a farm hand for Mr. Close. He is listed in the Osage Valley District 22 School census for that year. Quite likely they met again when she taught at the Walnut Grove country school, east of Moran, Kansas during the winter of 1893 and 1894.

Edward O. Worden, a twin, was born in Wayne County, Michigan September 30, 1867. He and his twin sister, Eva Olive, were the youngest of six children of Rufus Rypha and Almyra Thayer Worden. They came to Kansas soon after that and owned a farm north east of Bronson, Kansas in Bourbon County. There they farmed and he also taught in the area country schools about twenty years. That helped eke out a living in the young state. Dad's mother, Almyra, died November 25, 1876 at the home and was buried on the farm. Later, when the Bronson Cemetery was established, her sons moved her to her final resting place. Today, a hundred years later, her memorial stone still stands and we visit it each year and place flowers there in her memory.

Dad's oldest sister, Ella, didn't marry until March 20, 1879 and she cared for the younger ones in the family until that time. Life could be very rugged in a pioneer home without a mother. All the rest of Dad's days, he never cared for corn bread. Some time after 1890, R.R. Worden and my Dad E.O. Worden, bought a second hand store at Rich Hill, Missouri and that is where my parents first lived after they were married December 6, 1894 at Nevada, Missouri. Their witnesses were his sister Ella Rebecca and her husband George William Holt. They were married by a Justice of the Peace, and Dad was sure it was his first time to perform a ceremony.

One of their neighbors in Rich Hill had three small children and each morning when they awoke, the mama unbuttoned the three trap-doors on their nighties and sent them to the out house at the alley. Dad always referred to them as the three bears.

In 1896 my parents moved to the farm owned by my Grandmother, Louisa Annette Merton, and located in Osage Township, Allen County. This 80 acres adjoined the farm of my Great Grandparents, Edmund Dorr and Louisa M. Wolfe. All eight of we children were born there. My mother, Leona Merton, was born at Battle Creek, Michigan, October 15, 1873, a daughter of Arthur E. Merton and Louisa Annette Wolfe. My grandparents had three children who reached adulthood: Arthur Llewellyn Merton (he had a twin brother born dead), my Mother Leona, and May Irene who married Austin Reed of Ottawa, Kansas. After living in Battle Creek, Michigan, they lived in Chicago. They visited a lot with the many relatives around Valparaiso, Indiana. My grandfather, Arthur E. Merton was first married to Josephine Evans of Pennsylvania. She taught at Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio. She was one of the first lady Doctors of the United States. Children of Arthur E. Merton and Josephine Evans Merton were: Holmes Whittier Merton, Louis Merton and Clareva Merton who lost her life in a tornado at Grinnell, Iowa.

My Grandfather, Arthur E. Merton, traveled a lot in his research work, lecturing, portrait painting and drawing charts of the human body. His pen name was Alesha Sivartha. My Mother remembered well the times she sat in the lap of Mark Twain when he visited in their home. School records here in Allen County show that Arthur, Leona and May Merton attended Osage Valley School District No. 22, also Holmes and Lewis Merton attended. Later when they lived at Ottawa, Kansas, they attended there.

Dad always farmed with horses and that was also our transportation. This was before the days of fertilizer and agricultural lime, but all the manure was returned to the soil and crop residue was plowed under. Weeds were controlled and fruit trees sprayed. Enough hogs were raised to furnish meat and to sell for winter needs and taxes. Cows were kept to furnish milk and butter and the special times of home-made ice cream.

My Mother had the know-how to make Rhode Island Red hens produce enough eggs the year around, to buy the groceries, and those young red roosters were sure good fried. Our orchard produced plenty of fruit to can and each fall Dad picked late apples and hilled them up to use fresh during the winter. Cold storage apples can not compare with these Winsaps and Ben Davis Apples. We always had a big crop of potatoes and I never knew until after my parents were gone, of the many times they had shared this bounty with others.

Our dresses and the boys' shirts were always home made, and my Mother's ability to cut patterns and sew, proved of great value in keeping the family clothed. She could re-make a garment and it turned out to be beautiful without that re-made look.

Dad always called Mother, Lee when others were around, and other times it was Peggy. She always referred to him as Ed. Both of them enjoyed playing our organ and singing. Dad always had a guitar. He loved to play the guitar and sing his favorite songs. Some of them were: "Ben Bolt," "Silver Threads Among the Gold," "The Lock on the Chicken Coop Door," "Thompson's Old Gray Mule," "Home Sweet Home" (his version), "When You and I were Young Maggie." There were others. Many, many times through the years, Dad played the guitar and seconded for some of the local fiddlers who played for the local dances. Some of these were: Bert McCubbins, Ernest Thomas and Fred Tracey. Dad never played the guitar without playing the "Spanish Fandango" before he put it away.

My Dad was very slender. He had brown eyes and light brown hair. He was 5 foot 8 inches tall at maturity, but when he was sixteen years old he weighed 80 pounds and could wear his hat band for a belt. My Mother had hazel eyes and dark brown hair.

Neighbors, friends and relatives were always welcome visitors in our home and the time of family re-unions was something else. In those so-called "good old days," the young ones always had to eat at the second or third table, depending on how many were present, but we always finished with that nice full feeling that can happen only after a good meal. One of the most weird feelings I can remember is waking in another bed than the one where I went to sleep. I had been shifted to make room for company.

School was considered important and usually we could count and also know the alphabet when we started school. It was healthier to get good grades and the only times lessons were brought home was when the teacher didn't know the answers. Our Great Uncle, Robert Baker, a teacher and good mathematician, could solve all problems. The promise of our parents was remembered, if we got worked over at school, we got worked over when we got home. In the early teens of this century (1910s), very few pupils were encouraged to attend high school.

Mary Donica, of a close-by school district, told me in later years, that common school graduation services were held in the Center Valley School, district Number 64, for the ones in this area who were ready to graduate. That included her and a sister and my Mother Leona Merton. My Mother attended Normal Training School at Iola, Kansas before she taught.

Church and Sunday School were considered essential by the founders of our community. The Osage Valley Baptist Church was near and even though Dad didn't attend, my Mother and we children always did. Dad always saw to it that the horses and spring-wagon were ready every Sunday morning. Sickness was the only reason considered for not attending. Each year the Christmas Program and decorated tree on Christmas Eve were something to look forward to, and we felt lucky if it was snowy and the night stars studded. One Christmas Eve when we were getting ready to go to the church, an old setting hen came across the road leading the way through the snow for a bunch of fresh hatched baby chicks. They had to be brought inside in a box to save their lives.

There were always gifts on the tree and a big sack of candy for each one present. Another Christmas Eve, one of the neighbor boys was speaking the poem, "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," when a button popped off his too tight pants. The suspenders fell, his black eyes snapped and shone, but he never missed a line. That took courage.

We felt sad when our church was used to build the Baptist church at Kincaid, Kansas, but members had moved away, some had died, and attendance was almost nil. Several years later, Sunday School was held in the Glendale School with my Mother as Superintendant. Her health was failing so that didn't last.

Our pasture was always ready to be used as a ball diamond on Sunday afternoons. Farmers didn't have time to play ball on week-days. The horse shoes and pegs were ready when the men had time for a game on rainy days. The first formal Horseshoe World Championships were staged at Bronson, Kansas in Bourbon County in 1909. Occasionally there was some local horse racing which was exciting. That type of sports didn't require any cash outlay.

Fishing and hunting were other sports that paid off in fun and food. When a son reached the age that his Dad trusted him with a gun, he was very proud. Ice skating in winter and swimming in summer were enjoyed by many. Ice skating required more investment, but all young folks had skates. Men and boys went in the water in their birthday suits and women and girls could use some of their old clothes. Of course we used different swimming holes.

At our country school, Osage Valley, the last day of the school term was looked forward to. We had a basket dinner at noon and program followed. If enough were present they played ball. That food was good and also plentiful. We had young stomachs and they could take it. Some of us always worried whether we would be promoted to the next grade. Teachers today can promote a pupil, whether he earns it or not, and get them out of their hair, but when a teacher taught the whole school, that wasn't possible and the teacher didn't give up on the student.

My Mother was a member of the Osage Valley Baptist Church and very active in the Ladies Aid and other work. Dad belonged to "The Modern Woodman" and attended meetings in the township hall here in Bayard, where I have lived for thirty years. I can still remember family nights when I was small.

The last years of my Grandmother Merton's life were with our family. She was blind. It was amazing to me how well she could sew and we small ones were ever ready to lead her wherever she wanted to be. We never tired of hearing the stories she told and the songs she sang for us.

When the farm work was slowed down, Dad and his card playing friends would meet evenings at one of the homes, and enjoy a friendly game of pitch. Some of these were bachelors: John Ashley, Wesley Tucker and Fred Tracey. Others married friends: Alva Tracey, Len Rudisil, Les Newman, Charley Whitcomb, Erne (Mutt) Newman and my Dad.

Reading was encouraged in our home. We always subscribed to the "Weekly Kansas City Star" (3 years for $1.00), "The Iola Register," "The Red Book Magazine," and "The Saturday Evening Post." The "Bronson Pilot" was a weekly steady.

All pioneer ladies were ever ready to help others in sickness or birth or death. The only doctors available were miles away and they traveled by horse and buggy. My Mother had major surgery twice, once at Kansas City Bethany Hospital and once at St. Johns Hospital, Iola, Kansas. She was never very strong after that and died April 8, 1922. that left three children for Dad to raise: Ethel, (Dutch) Edward (Mike), and John (Wes), 6 years old. Ten years later he was married to Blanche Lakey McKinney, a lady he had known years before. She had two sons and two daughters, all grown and married. She made a good home for Dad the rest of his day, and her family was pleasant to know. She only outlived Dad by three years. She passed away in June 1939.

When Elmer and I were married, my parents gave us three dozen Rhode Island Red hens plus roosters. I can see now that chickens were a very necessary part of farming equipment. A year later Dad bought me an organ and it sure did help make a house a home. There is much more that could be written, but all memories cannot be put on paper.


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