Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

In 1889, Hattie Parsons ‘staked her claim’ along Oklahoma river

Neighbor men said, "John Page is so slow that when his horses get the corn planter to the end of a row, the first seeds have already sprouted." However, Hattie Parsons Page was a "go-getter." Neither Hattie nor my mom thought housework was more important than taking kids to the creek to fish or swim. Hattie brought Catherine to our home once a week for Mom to give her a piano lesson. Her brothers took violin lessons, and William would "teach" me what he was learning. I liked that guy.

Once a week, Hattie drove Brown Pony and a buggy to our house for noon dinner and piano lesson. Hattie and I cleared the table and talked for nearly an hour. I was fascinated by her adventures. As a young girl, Hattie Parsons attended a girls’ boarding school near Kansas City. Students had to go outdoors down a path to the outhouses, privies lined up away from other buildings. Stepping stones made the path visible on moonlit nights. In winter and on rainy nights, they could use the lidded porcelain chamber pot, which they emptied and cleaned promptly. That vessel was also called "the slop jar," "the pot" or "the white owl." Students bathed weekly with water in a big china wash bowl with a matching pitcher. Hattie Parsons graduated.

She was alone in the mob of eager people who went to central Oklahoma hoping to acquire free land. An antique encyclopedia explains the rush this way: "When the trumpet sounded, at least 20,000 people dashed forward to stake their claims."

Hattie Parsons was there on April 22, 1889, when the trumpet sounded! This courageous young woman chose to stake her claim on land that was on the banks of a small, flowing river. A bachelor named John also chose land on the banks of that river. Hattie and John eventually married and had three children. They left Oklahoma and bought a large, very old red brick home on a worn-out farm in Central Missouri. We met the five Pages when they were newcomers at Olivet Church at Harg. I treasured those lesson days when Hattie and I spent time together.

John and Hattie’s William became suddenly ill in his teens. He passed away almost before we realized his illness was serious! John and Hattie Page were devastated. Several months later, Hattie brought William’s violin to me, saying, "William would want you to have this."

Mom helped me learn some simple tunes to play with her on the piano. I took 18 lessons from Ruth, the orchestra director at University High School. She graduated, and Uncle Charlie said, "Sue, why don’t you play ‘Turkey in the Straw’ or ‘Oh, Dem Golden Slippers’?"

I did that and never had another violin lesson! But I did play a few square dance tunes while Mom "chorded" on the piano.

When I was at a dance with my German cousins at Moscow Mills, there was a brief break, and the fiddler handed me his violin, saying, "Play a tune so I can dance one with my gal." I could start a piece but never had played a full square dance. A cramp was about to stop me when two Bohemians got into a fight over a partner and everything stopped - long enough for me to relax the cramp. The applause roared when they realized a female had been playing the fiddle!

I’ve spent many happy hours with memories of the Page family and played many a square dance - on William’s violin. I have now sent the instrument to a member of Hattie’s family for safekeeping.

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