Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Paternal Grandparents #2

Earlier I wrote about my grandparents who immigrated into the United States in the early 1900's and came to Oregon to homestead on a 640 acre sagebrush property near Malhuer City. 

This is the entrance to the old bank and is all that remains of Malhuer City which a grass fire destroyed in 1957. The name Malhuer means misfortune which eventually for my grandparents became true.

My grandparents were very poor but resourceful. My grandfather worked at the Mormon Basin placer mine as well as the ranch.  The family raised cattle, a large garden and chickens. They sold the extra eggs to a local grocery store and butchered chickens each year. The children attended a small one room school where the only source of heat in the winter was an old potbellied wood stove.  The children either walked or rode a horse to school every day. The teacher stayed with one of the local families during the school year. 

These buildings are all that are left of the Mormon Basin mine. 

The men used to stay in this building which was the bunk house. As a child my father would take us to visit. The mine was still in minimal operation at that time and he knew many of the people who worked there.  The two memories that stand out are the cook who made a delicious steak meal for the work crew and the bunk house. At some point in time an amazing artist worked there. He painted huge cartoon character murals on the walls of many of the rooms. I can remember staring at those paintings, especially Popeye, Olive Oyl and Brutus and wishing those were on my walls. Years later when it was closed up we went back and someone had cut the paintings out of the walls and all that was left was huge gaping holes. I remembered being so disappointed that they were no longer there. I often wonder if my father loved it there because somehow he felt just a little closer to his father who he had no memory of.

In July, the summer of 1928 my grandfather was working outside around the ranch. As is common in that part of Oregon there are many thunder storms. He was carrying a roll of wire on his shoulder when a bolt of lightening struck him killing him instantly. My grandmother, who was pregnant with her 9th child had taken the horse and wagon to a neighbors home when this happened. I was told by her that one of the children came to get her. She said that she could still remember vividly the smell of burning flesh and the sound of his insides sloshing when she cradled his head in her lap. Can you even imagine the horror of this? She apparently went into shock and ended up in the hospital where she had the baby a few months later. She named the new baby Michael after his dad.

The family worked together to keep the property and several years later my grandmother married another Hungarian immigrant only to lose him to cancer one year later. She had her tenth child on the day he was buried.


Twisted Fencepost said...

Oh my, how misfortunate!!! That is just terrible for her. Such a sad story.

Jill said...

I love this post. I would love to go see the old bunk (if it's still standing)--I can imagine how Grandpa felt standing in there, maybe feeling some sort of closeness to his father. I never knew your grandma told you that last memory you wrote about--the part about the smell and sounds she remembered the day her husband died. How incredibly sad. What a great post!

Em said...

Wow, what a life! How long did she live after her second husband died? What a story, and the pictures are beautiful. I love the bunk-house photo. It's amazing those places are still there, still standing, and not plowed over for some subdivision or shopping center.

Egghead said...

Jill...Grandma also told me about seeing that everywhere there was anything metal like his pocket watch, snaps on his shirt and such she could see were burnt. That visual was probably the hardest thing to get rid of if she ever did.

Em, my grandmother lived to be 82 so she had a very long life. Her children made sure she was looked after because she was very independent and lived on her own until the day she died. She had a heart attack while crocheting and so she passed away doing what she loved to do. Oh and those buildings are still there but they will probably never be plowed under for a shopping center or subdivision. This is way up in the mountains and the land is terrible.

rhymeswithplague said...

Vonda, what a tragedy about your grandfather, but thank you for sharing the story with your readers. My view is that most people today (in our country, at least) have lives of relative ease and don't have a fraction of the courage and fortitude of earlier generations.

Mental P Mama said...

Great post, and that last sentence takes your breath away.

tipper said...

No I can't imagine the horror. I just love it when you do this kind of post-so interesting!

Yolanda said...

This is such ruggedly beautiful country here.

Carolynn said...

Hi Vonda,
I have nominated your blog for the "I Love Your Blog" Award! Come on over to my site to pick up your award.

Here are the rules for the award:
1. The winner can put the logo on her blog.
2. Link the person from whom you received your award.
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs.
4. Put links of those blogs on your blog.
5. Leave a message on the blogs of those you have nominated.


CeeCee said...

Holy cats! Sounds just like LIttle House on the Prairie with a bit of reality thrown in for good measure.
Prairie women had hard, hard lives for sure. Your poor G'ma.
Thanks for sharing such a neat story about your family.

Pamela said...

Vonda, the story of your grandparents was amazing. Thank you so much for sharing it.

What a woman you grandmother was! What an inspiration. And what a reward for her to pass away doing what she loved--no one can ask for more than that.

Again, thank you for introducing us to such a brave, strong, resourceful woman as your grandmother. Thank you.

noble pig said...

It always amazes me how hard life was then and I think it's hard now. Not a chance. This was an amazing story and really shows who the salt of the earth was.

Twinville said...

This story just feels me with such a heavy darkness and deep sadness for the horrific trials, intense challenges and lives filled with strife.

Times were so hard then. We are so soft now and have no idea what hard work and true suffering is all about.

Thanks for such a reminder and for sharing a portion of your family's history.


Linda Reeder said...

It amazes me how close in time we are to these ancestors, and yet how far removed our worlds are now. My own mother faced hardships, chopping two fingers off when she was cutting fire wood for the only sorce of heat in our little farm house in Oregon. Dad was away at Fort Lewis in 1945, and she was home with two little kids, one of them me. I'm glad I have no memory of it.
But the hardships of daily life, the struggles to support a family, to provide food and clothing and shelter, were very difficult, and ofter involved danger. My father was a logger in his earlier days, and I remember him coming home early having been brushed by a "widow maker", with a nasty wound on his cheek.
And yet we had many happy times. We took the good with the bad. I don't think I could live like that again. Life is so much easier now.

Jeannelle said...


This is just a wonderful historical post! I think you should think about writing a book about your grandmother's life. Seriously. What ordeals she went through!

I'm wondering if you ever found out where the cartoon murals ended up?

Country Girl said...

What a lovely post, Vonda. So tragic, but such is life sometimes, isn't it? I can't even imagine the horror of finding my husband dead like that.

The W.O.W. factor said...

This is a wonderful memory, albeit parts are sad. Thanks for sharing it.
(you know...italmost felt like I was there..in that era...maybe I was, in a different life..hmmm)