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A long-ago childhood July 11, 2012

Posted by Jenny in history, home, memoir.
Tags: , , , ,

My great-grandmother Edna Loraine Crowninshield in center, with her Sunday School students, around 1885

This is taken from a memoir entitled “When I Was a Girl” by my grandmother, Sybil Crowninshield Kennedy Bennett. This post begins a series that alternates every other post.

My mother was Edna Loraine Crowninshield. She was born February 3, 1866 in Hinsdale, New Hampshire, the youngest of six children. Her father was a prosperous businessman and farmer. He owned about three thousand acres of land, much of it on Mt. Pisgah in Cheshire County, NH, from which he cut and sold pine for the paper mills at Hinsdale, and for railroad ties. She always regretted his unwillingness for her to have more schooling.

She told many things about her life there – the mountain spring, the water of which ran through the kitchen sink, winter and summer, the big fireplace called the Arch with cranes for making maple syrup, trying out lard, making soap and other things, which was in a separate kitchen from the family one with the sink and built-in baking oven.

She was eight years old when the family moved to Cato, New York [a small town northwest of Syracuse]…. She went to the three-room Cato Union School…the older students were probably learning at about the seventh and eighth grade levels. She loved to study and read. She was president of the Presbyterian Church Missionary Society for 25 years…. she taught the Women’s Bible Class in Sunday School for over 40 years [when she was older than in the photo above, which shows her before she was married, with girl students].

She made all our clothes. Most of my sister’s and mine were made over from those of older, larger cousins and ingeniously put together. This was a tremendous effort for her, because style and fashion were of little interest in themselves and she had no training in dressmaking. When paper patterns were invented it was all much easier. When I was eleven and [sister] Celia ten we went to Buffalo to the Pan American Exposition (1901) in August. It seems hard to believe that our costumes were blue wool serge sailor suits with pleated skirts, white blouses and little jackets and trimmed with white soutache braid, even in the hot weather! We did have cotton dresses always, of course, at home. We were very comfortable and carefree in dark blue dotted or printed calicos and gingham with checks and stripes, all summer long.

My mother did all the work, cleaning, cooking, even washing and ironing with a handpowered washing machine and stove-heated irons. Other tasks were canning fruit and vegetables as well as picking and harvesting them and making jams and jellies. All the bread, cakes, pies, and cookies were made by her except such little help as we girls gave.The most successful cakes I make, even now, are two she taught me when I was ten or twelve years old. She was famous for her baked beans, meat loaves, soups, bread and chocolate cake.

She was very fond of poetry from her childhood and knew literally hundreds of poems by heart as well as the words of the church hymns. These she would repeat just to amuse herself when busy. Sometimes she recited to entertain at church or parties. Her memory was prodigious and she depended on it for “company” as much as she did on reading.

(To be continued)


1. Tom - July 21, 2012

I love the name “Crowninshield.” It sounds like one of Beowulf’s twelve of which the poet writes that the monster Grendel, on his final night, “never found/harder luck or thanes.”

Is that Norwegian, Swedish, or Danish?

Jenny - July 22, 2012

Tom, it’s an anglicized German name. The family traces it back to Johan Kaspar Richter von Kronschildt, who was born in 1644 and supposedly fled Germany after killing a fellow student at the University of Leipzig. He immigrated to Boston. His descendant David Crowninshield settled in Hinsdale NH in the 1780s.

2. Doug Wood - January 5, 2013

Hi My name is Douglas Wood, my father, was Sherry Wood, his mother was Ruth Kennedy and her mother was Elsie Crowninshield Kennedy…and Elsie was Edna’s sister. Please get in touch with me at droadracer@twcny.rr.com…Thanks

Jenny - January 5, 2013

Yes, I see in Edna’s genealogy that Else was her older sister and that they both married men named Kennedy. I am emailing you.

3. mtaggartwriter - February 8, 2015

I enjoyed this. What a different world it was…and yet it was only a moment ago.

Jenny - February 8, 2015

I’m glad you enjoyed it. I think we have a lot to learn from our ancestors of only a hundred years ago.

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