Clinton and Jennie's House
Jennie and Clinton Vincent
This is the story of Clinton Joy and Hannah Jane (Jennie) Vincent as told by their granddaughter, Marjorie June Vincent-Coombs in 1977. "We Remember Jennie and Clinton Vincent" is a wonderful account of the lives of Clinton Joy and Jennie Stephens-Vincent in Montana from the late 1800's to 1959.
Marjorie Vincent Coombs
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction
In whole or in part in any form
Copyright 1977 by Marjorie Vincent Coombs
The original book was typed on an IBM Selectric Typewriter.
It was digitalized and reprinted with permission from
Marjorie Vincent - Coombs on February 16, 2009.
Reformatted for www.grandmaflossie.com , June 2020
When I began this book I had no idea how difficult it would be to adhere to the subject, We Remember Jennie and Clinton Vincent. Those who contributed to the project experienced this problem too. Everyone found it difficult to be selective and objective. Everyone was too emotionally involved in all that had happened.
How was I to describe people without describing buildings, locations, livestock, pets-persons, creatures and things were all so closely intertwined—were so much a part of every day’s existence? Significant amounts of these descriptions were used but in the final analysis I had to omit a large quantity of excellent material that only indirectly involved our Grandparents. Perhaps that material will be included in a sequel.
My chief concern was content; I make no apologies for my grammar or syntax. If the latter two items had been my concern I would have sought professional advice. I exercised my author’s prerogative in an attempt to be honest and forthright in my descriptions of the people whose lives were honored—without being offensive. Much of the poignancy, sadness, exhaustive labor, disappointments, frustrations, financial losses and deprivations experienced by the Vincents may be read into the account. Intentionally, negative aspects were minimized and the more joyful, memorialized.
Readers may experience some identity confusion between Frank, Sr. and Frank, Jr., son and grandson of Jennie and Clinton. Efforts were made to render this as clearly as possible. The “Aunt Fannie” named on page 16 was Fannie Parker, widow of Jennie Stephens Vincent’s uncle (and youngest brother of Jane Parker Stephens.) Her home was about one quarter mile northwest of the ranch house. A colorful personality, an entire chapter could have been devoted to her. Geneva Vincent Lindgren is named both as “Auntie” and “Aunt Geneva” throughout the account.
I want to thank Lillie and Frank Vincent, hosts for the Vincent Family Reunion of July 1977, who invited me to accept this challenge. But for them this book, written so often in my imagination on sleepless nights, might never have become a reality. I also want to thank Frank, Herbert, and Darryl Vincent as well as Geneva Vincent Lindgren, Flossie Pyle Vincent Olsen, Doris Fisk McIntyre and Leona June Stephens Sterling for their contributions.
This book is dedicated to my Father, Frank Seymour Vincent, whose love, loyalty and devotion to duty became his life’s sacrifice; and to my Aunt, Geneva Vincent Lindgren whose love and devotion enriched her parents’ lives and continues to enrich ours.
Jennie Stephens Vincent
Jennie Stephens, eldest child of Frank and Jane Stephens, was born in Alder Gulch, Montana Territory, June 1, 1865, where her parents had migrated from Utah the preceding year. Her father worked as a teamster for the government and later was one of the farmers who supplied the food needs of the early day miners in the Virginia City (Montana) area; then in the Deer Lodge Valley to the miners of the French and German Gulches. His was an Horatio Alger story of a poor Irish immigrant lad finding fame and fortune in a new land. In 1890 he moved to Butte where industry and wise investments brought him both prominence and wealth.
Jennie Stephens was truly a pioneer child, one of the first white children born in Montana Territory, and as such she experienced many hardships which developed in her sterling qualities of industry, thrift, cheerfulness, charity, perseverance, courage and fortitude. Her abiding faith in God and her optimism were a remarkable example to all those who knew and loved her.
Every effort was made to insure her education. Her father, self-educated, made arrangements to house a summer school for her and her brothers and the few children of the area, in his granary. Later the teacher was boarded in the Stephens’ home for five additional months each year in order that the children might be tutored.
Mr. Stephens was instrumental in securing the first log school building in the Deer Lodge Valley, known as the Willow Glenn School. It was six miles from the Stephens’ home and Jennie and her oldest brother attended it during the summer months of operation, traveling to and from the school once a week, taking clothing and provisions to last them while they lodged with the teacher.
It was during this time that Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce Indians, driven from their tribal lands in Idaho and harassed by the U. S. Army, came into Montana seeking peace and an escape to Canada. The settlers, suspicious of their intent and aroused to a panic by the propaganda of the time, sprung into action to defend their families and their land.
The Stephens’ home was in the Deer Lodge Valley. Her father and his team of strong horses were drafted into service to protect the settlers. During the day, Jennie, then age 12, and her mother and younger brothers hid in the grain field fearful of attack at any time. At night Mrs. Stephens would creep cautiously back to the house to cook and prepare food for them for the next day.
Wild rumors spread throughout the Valley that the Indians were coming destroying everything before them. It was a fearful task for a young girl to undertake; to comfort her small brothers left in her care during those dark nights. It made a lasting impression on her.
The Indians never came but instead passed through the Bitter Root Valley concentrating on the Big Hole where an encampment of Nez Perce was ambushed by the Army and the last major engagement of the Indian Wars in the Northwest was fought.
After attending the elementary school at Deer Lodge she entered the College of Montana which was located there. Family records show that she completed three years and one of her report cards, dated March 1888, shows the following grades: Elocution, 90; Latin, 92; Music, 91; Geometry, 94; and Painting, 93.
Other mementoes are piano and elocution recital programs dated June 15, 1887 and June 12, 1888 and her treasured Autograph Book which contains penmanship the quality of which is no longer seen, and the names of classmates from Michigan, Utah, Minnesota, Iowa and Ohio as well as Montana Territory. From that book:
“Nothing is lost that adds to the elevation of our thoughts since thoughts become the fibers of the will and will is the iron muscle by which mankind ascends the scale of human possibilities.”
Clinton Joy Vincent
Clinton Joy Vincent, born in 1857 in Wilna, New York was the son of Seymour Vincent and Matilda Curtis Vincent. His father was a 5th generation American, his ancestor William Vincent having come to settle in Pautuxet, R. I. in 1659 from Amesbury, Wiltshire, England.
Clinton had a sister, Abbie, who was three years younger than he and younger twin sisters—Lulu and Laura. The twins died at the age of five of diphtheria—a very sad experience for the entire family.
Abbie married George Jarvis and they raised two sons and a daughter. The latter, Lulu Jarvis Crittendon Thomas was a genealogist and we are deeply indebted to her for the extensive Vincent family records. The oldest son, Dr. DeForest Jarvis, an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist of national reputation, later in life wrote the best-selling book “Folk Medicine” extolling the virtues of honey and vinegar as a remedy for about anything but particularly for arthritis. The Shelbourne Museum in Burlington, Vermont has a room display of his office.
Abbie traveled West twice. It was a happy experience for all who met this delightful, charming person. One of those occasions was Jennie and Clinton’s Golden Wedding Anniversary when she spent several weeks in Hamilton.
We have little knowledge of Clinton’s boyhood except for two undated cards presented to him during his school days. These 2 ½ x 4 inch, ornately decorated cards contain the following message: “Reward of Merit, presented to Clinton Vincent as an honorable testimony of approbation for industry, punctuality and good conduct” and were signed by his teachers.
Clinton came West in 1879. Auntie tells us, “He came West for his health with a friend, Fred Gray. He had something the matter with his lungs and was told to work outdoors, breathe in lots of fresh air and stand up straight. It is my understanding that he worked in logging camps to earn a living—never in the mines. He recovered and lived many years. The friend, Gray, stayed two years but returned to New York State. He didn’t like the West—he hated every minute of it and, although Dad wrote to him asking him to come for a visit, he never came.”
Clinton did stand up straight. Most of us can remember his clasping his hands behind his back as he walked and Frank and Herb often imitated their Grandfather’s stance.
He did have stories to tell about his experiences and it is a pity that so few of these can be recalled. His yarns about his experiences in logging camp boardinghouses included the following: “The boardinghouse keeper made the butter in a round piece and had it hard as a rock. No one could get any butter off of it!! It just went ‘round and ‘round on the plate. One day one of the men got mad, stuck his fork into it, took it over to his plate, cut off what he wanted and put it back. It went around the table with each man doing the same and they never had any trouble with the butter again!!” recalls Aunt Geneva.
It is not known if he came directly to Montana but he did arrive in the Anaconda-Butte area sometime in the 1880’s and courted Jennie Stephens and married her.
Their Life Together
Jennie Stephens and Clinton Joy Vincent were married on Sunday, August 18, 1889 in Anaconda, Montana. Jennie’s beautiful wedding gown was made by Emma Vincent, wife of Burt Vincent who was Clinton’s cousin. Among their wedding gifts was a Singer sewing machine the cabinet of which was golden oak, including the box-cover for the head. The young couple made their first home in Anaconda on Park Street where their two children, Frank Seymour and Geneva were born.
At Christmas time 1896, Jennie and Clinton took their children by train to Burlington, Vermont to the home of Abbie and George Jarvis and family for a reunion. Clinton’s parents were also present. Aunt Geneva was just two years old then but she recalls, “On Christmas morning—just at daylight, I came downstairs. I can still see myself coming down and making the turn. Over in the corner was the biggest Christmas tree----loaded with ornaments and all the gifts around it. I tiptoed back up and never did tell a soul—not even my mother, what I’d done.”
About this time they moved to the former Frank Stephens’ ranch in the Deer Lodge Valley about five miles from Anaconda. While they lived there Jane and Frank Stephens, then living in Butte, visited them. Frank came about every two weeks. Geneva and her brother, Frank, always knew when he was coming—on foot—and would run to meet him.
Aunt Geneva says, “He would tell us big yarns all the way back to the house and he would give us a box of candy kisses. They came in a yellow box and abound the outside was pictures of monkeys. I didn’t give a darn about the candy, I liked those monkeys!!
He held us on his lap and talked to us and then would go down to Uncle Will’s place and give Rita and Ruth a box of kisses, too. (Will Stephens, Jennie’s brother and his girls who lived on the adjoining ranch about a mile away.)
This ranch seemed to be subject to much trouble. The smoke from the smelter started drifting down into the valley and began killing the crops. Jennie and Clinton knew that if they stayed it would only get worse.
Also, the house was located near a ravine and was in grave danger from flash floods. Aunt Geneva recalls, “One of the floods came down. Mother came out and grabbed me around the stomach. I can still feel it. She ran all over that yard screaming at the top of her lungs, “Neva, Neva, Neva’. As she ran she was knocking the wind out of me and I couldn’t tell her that she had me under her arm! Finally she looked down and saw me and quit running and screaming.” Many years later the house was moved to a new location towards Deer Lodge or it might have been destroyed.
Another threat was lightning storms. On two occasions Clinton, while working in the fields, was knocked down by lightning. When a buyer, a man named Staffanson, presented himself and persisted in buying the property, Jennie and Clinton decided it was time to make the move. One year later the new owner was struck by lightning and killed leaving a widow and a large family.
The Move to Hamilton
Prior to the move to Hamilton in 1902, the family made two exploratory trips. It was a long, tiring journey leaving Anaconda about 7 in the morning and arriving in Hamilton between 11 and 12 at night. Hours were spent in Drummond awaiting the westbound train. The family stayed at the Hamilton Hotel and sought a place to live.
Because Frank Stephens had died very suddenly of a ruptured appendix in December 1898, Jane came to make her home until her death, with Jennie and Clinton. She, too, was involved in the move to Hamilton.
Vincent Family Reunion
The George Jarvis Home
Left to Right Rear: Jennie Vincent, Lulu Jarvis, Deforest Jarvis, George Jarvis with DeAlton Jarvis.
Left to Right Front: Geneva Vincent, Clinton Vincent, Frank Vincent, Seymour Vincent, Maltida Vincent and Abbie Jarvis
The Dowling Place
Left to Right Rear: Clinton and Jennie Vincent
Left to Right Seated: Geneva Vincent, Nina Peterson (a friend), Jane Stephens, and Frank Vincent
They sold everything; went to Staggs in Anaconda and bought all new furniture—practically a railroad boxcar full that was then shipped
The family rented three successive homes, each one a little larger than the last. The purpose of these moves was more space so that Jennie could operate a boarding-rooming house as a means of making a living. Frank Stephens had built a three-story building—the Stephens Block—in Butte where he and Jane had rented out space as housekeeping rooms. Jennie was acquainted with some of the procedures in such a venture.
The largest of the three homes in Hamilton was that now known as the Dowling Mortuary. This beautiful house with its adjoining outbuildings, sat squarely in the middle of an entire block and was—and is today—surrounded by lovely shade trees. Here four or five people came to room and board with the Vincents.
This place was fenced all around with several gates. Aunt Geneva recalls, “One Halloween the folks didn’t want my brother, Frank, to go out and get into trouble so Mother gave him a dollar to stay home. About dusk Frank went out and took all the gates off on our property and hid them in the large barn. The next morning the folks had a fit ‘cause somebody had stolen their gates. They just knew it wasn’t Frank ‘cause they’d paid him to stay home!”
She continues, “We had a team of horses to pull our two-seater spring wagon—Maud and May. We never had to mow our lawn as long as we lived on the Dowling place…and it was just beautiful. Maud and May kept it trimmed right off while they were pastured there. It looked as if somebody had just mowed it. And we never once, in all that time, had to clean up after them. They would go back in the tall, coarse grass in the northwest corner on Third Street!”
The Move to the Grantsdale
In 1910 the family moved to the ranch which was to be their home for many years. It was three miles south of Hamilton near Grantsdale. It consisted of 160 acres of land purchased for $5,000 and had irrigation water rights. Later the 160-acre adjoining Brown Ranch to the east was added. Two large irrigation canals ran through the property.
The buildings included a large, two-story, four-bedroom house with bath; a smaller house; a stone milk house; two barns; a granary; a blacksmithing shop; a smoke house; an ice house and miscellaneous other small buildings. Other buildings were added later. The original owners had had the foresight to plant numerous poplar and cottonwood trees whose generous shade cooled the farm buildings they surrounded. They grew to enormous size.
The crops raised included alfalfa hay, potatoes, various grains, sugar beets, field peas—not all of these were raised in any one year—and garden crops. Blackberries, raspberries and strawberries were raised to sell. There were two orchards planted with apples, cherries and other soft fruits. Chickens were raised and eggs or fryers marketed. Dairy cows were kept—probably a maximum of 8 or 10 milking at one time—and whole or separated milk sold. Hogs were raised to be used by the family or marketed. A team of work horses and two or three saddle horses completed the livestock.
Aunt Geneva recalls, “My Grandmother raised turkeys….that was her hobby. She would get out in the night and see that the coyotes didn’t get them. She would have two or three dozen turkeys, which she would sell in the fall. She had to watch out for the gobbler and carry a good sized stick with her to knock him off when he would chase after and jump up on her. She would swing the big stick around to scare him off.”
The Farmer Takes a Wife
In 1918 Frank S. Vincent married Flossie J. Pyle. About 1920 they moved onto the ranch in the smaller of the two houses which he had moved to a better location and remodeled for them. This house also had indoor plumbing and an ingenious water system whereby a gasoline pump raised the well water to a large storage tank on the second floor from which a gravity flow system supplied it to bathroom and kitchen.
Many years later—about 1930—when electric service was available to rural dwellers, Frank successfully wired both houses.
To this marriage was born the following children: Marjorie June (Margie June or Marge); Frank Edward (Junior); Donald Nicholas, who died at the age of three; Charles Herbert (Herbie or Herb); and Darryl Lee.
Jennie and Clinton’s Life On the Ranch
Jennie’s home on the ranch was a center of warmth and hospitality to all. In true farm fashion anyone who stopped at mealtime was fed and she was such a good cook, she always had many at her table. Aunt Geneva recalls about a dozen relatives, former (old) hired men and others who came to stay for as long as a year. The visits and whims of these people would make an entire book in itself. Two children, Maudie Smith Allen and Vernon Fullmer came to live on the ranch for several years.
She had a great love in her heart for her grandchildren and was never too busy to help them in their play—games or childhood carpentry—or make their favorite pies, chocolate brownies, chocolate pudding and cookies.
She was a member of the Christian Science Church and was one of the charter members in Hamilton. She was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star and served her chapter as Worthy Matron in 1924. Later she was awarded a 50-year pin and named a Life Member. All things social brought her happiness and happiness, too, to those with whom she came in contact.
She and Clinton celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary on August 18, 1939 with more than 200 friends gathered at a lovely reception in their home given by Aunt Geneva.
Clinton’s personality was in marked contrast to Jennie’s. Perhaps life with her was too great a challenge for him; his unmet expectations and hopes were evidently a great frustration.
It was said of him in true Western parlance that “he couldn’t hold his liquor”, a fact that brought much suffering to the family and to him. When he was involved in a drinking spree he would become talkative and abusive. Life for the entire family was made most difficult. Sorrowfully, in those days society did nothing but scorn or pity the victim of alcoholism and their families. Drunkenness was a weakness not a disease to be treated. There was no Alcoholics Anonymous.
At one time his condition became so acute that he went to Spokane to seek what treatment was available. This seemed to be effective until the great grief occasioned by the death of his 3-year old grandson, Donald, propelled him, in his sadness, back to the bottle.
No one could mistake that he wanted to be in charge. At times he could be dictatorial and tyrannical—at others, courteous and courtly.
He had a limited education but read extensively in the current newspapers published in Spokane, Missoula and Boston (the editorially reputable Christian Science Monitor) to which the family subscribed.
His grandchildren loved him and he showed a deep affection for them. It was only as they grew older that they came to acknowledge his weaknesses. Perhaps Herb puts it best when he says, “Grandpa usually drove his green pickup Model A to town on Saturday and spent the day playing cards and ‘lifting a few’ with his cronies at the Brunswick pool hall. This really hurt Grandma as she was a teetotaler and did not condone such behavior. As a result of watching alcohol ruin my Grandma’s later years of marriage, I also became a teetotaler to this day.
In later years a foolish quarrel separated him from Jennie and he left the ranch to spend the remaining two years of his life in a small house on the North side of Hamilton. Here Aunt Geneva visited him and looked after him as best she could until the time of his death in April of 1942 at the age of 85.
Until her 81st birthday, Jennie led a most active life, keeping house for her daughter and raising flowers, berries, and vegetables. At that time she suffered a serious stroke that left her critically ill for six weeks. She recovered sufficiently to know and converse with those dear to her, being dressed and coming to the table to have her meals. In 1954 she became a nursing home patient were she died in June 1959 at the age of 94.
Frank and Flossie and their family left the ranch in 1934 moving to small acreage closer to Hamilton. The land was then tilled by a renter. Frank died in May of 1936.
In 1940 Aunt Geneva married bachelor and long-time friend, Rostan A. (Ross) Lindgren who lived with his widowed mother on a farm on the Skalkaho.
In 1946 Geneva and Ross sold the remaining 80 acres upon which the house and other buildings stood and moved with Jennie to a home on South Second Street in Hamilton.
Grandpa and His Roll Top Desk
Most often we found our Grandpa, on our frequent trips in and out of his house, seated at his roll top desk in front of the window where he could see the comings and goings of the farm equipment and horses, our Dad and the hired men. As he sat there, he was busy figuring on the back of used envelopes.
Frank recalls, “Grandpa was a great planner. He could figure out numerous ways to make a fortune for anyone that would listen.” He took into account the acreage, the type of crop, the yield and the selling price for the grain, hay, potatoes or whatever we might plant. In this way he would arrive at his estimate of the year’s profit.
In those years, many of which were Depression Years when prices were rock bottom and crops often could not be sold at any price, we rarely achieved Grandpa’s goal.
Frank remembers further, “The roll top desk as a great place to explore. The many drawers and small compartments held most of Grandpa’s trinkets. I loved to look through these things.” Darryl contradicts when he says, “I also recall the roll top desk somewhere on the first floor that was stuffed with odd bits of paper—forbidden territory.”
Grandpa and Banks
Grandpa was a great one to believe that banks were there to be used. In the spring, when it was time to plant the crops and money to buy the seed was scarce or non-existent, Grandpa would always say, “Go to the bank, that’s what they’re there for.” So we would go to the bank for the needed cash, which of course, always had to be repaid in the fall. This became an endless process.
Irrigating the Land
Remembrances of Grandpa fail to reveal his ever doing much manual labor on the farm. Our Dad did most of the work. Grandpa did help with the irrigating and there was considerable of that to be done.
Canvas dams were threaded onto pieces of lead pipe and carried over the shoulder. Wading boots were worn and the work was done when the “head” of water was available. Sometimes this meant working through the night or in the very early morning. The men went out and “set” the dams across the various small ditches that interlaced the land, weighting them down with rocks. After the backed-up water had caused the land to be sufficiently moistened, the rocks and dam would be removed and a “set” made further down the ditch. In Grandpa’s words, “Nothin’ to it.”
It was not terribly hard work but the hours were long. On hot days it had its advantages. Carrying wet dams was cooling and sometimes a nap could be taken in the field until the water reached the sleeper to awaken him for the next “set”.
Grandpa also helped with the hog butchering. I remember this as being a very dramatic and exciting part of life on the ranch, done in the fall when the weather had turned nippy. A neighbor or two brought their animals to be slaughtered and dressed out, too, because we had good facilities and because the carcasses were so heavy it took the strength of several men to do the job.
Everyone in the family got into the act. There was a well house in the barnyard where there was an ample supply of water. Nearby was a large vat about 6 feet long, 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep underneath which a fire could be built. On butchering day the vat was filled and heated to boiling. The hog was slaughtered and the carcass dumped into the hot water. Much heaving then ensued to pry it back onto the platform where all the men fell to quickly scrape the hide and remove the hair.
Once this was done, it was raised on a framework of 2x4s where it was dressed out. Then came the part where the children got into the act. The tail was taken off, a big safety pin driven through it, and it was pinned by turns to the back of our coats and we chased each other around the barnyard. Also, Grandpa saw to it that the bladder was cleaned and filled with air for a balloon for us to kick around.
After the carcass had cooled overnight it was carried into Grandma’s big kitchen where the table was opened full length. And that’s where Grandpa shone! He had the know-how needed to properly cut the meat into chops, roasts, spareribs, bacon and hams and he really liked his job. He had his knives honed to perfection and the job was soon finished except for canning the sausage, making the head cheese and smoking the meat set aside for this purpose.
Grandma’s Kitchen—Cooking and Entertaining
Grandma’s kitchen was a wonderful place. It was always warm and friendly—often there were neighbors who dropped in to visit. Grandpa had a rocking chair alongside the kitchen range and Grandma would practically have to trip over him to get from the stove to the pantry and back. He liked to sit there, rock, smoke his corncob pipe and talk to her.
There was always a cat, purring and rubbing its back against her legs and usually grandchildren around his feet because we were there so much of the time.
Herb recalls that the pantry was a good place to hide in the game of Hide and Seek. He continues, “Also the wood box alongside the kitchen range. Next to the wood box was a ‘Kitchen Queen’ to store sugar, flour, salt and spices. Alongside that was the kitchen window where I spent many hours waiting for Auntie to come home at night from her job at J. C. Penney in Hamilton.”
“This window was on the northwest corner of the house and gave the best view of the road toward Aunt Fannie’s place, the cheese factory and Hamilton. During the summer it would still be light when Auntie drove home in her tan Model A Coupe but in the winter all I could see through the icy window was the car lights. Most of the time I had to melt the ice on the window by breathing on it or taking turns putting my hands on the glass. Finally after what seemed an eternity, the lights of Auntie’s car would turn up the lane and she would be home.”
Darryl says, “I best remember Grandmother Vincent in the kitchen on the ranch. To a four-year old its airy, light décor and wonderful aroma were indeed impressive. Somehow I recall a canary or two always in song. I suspect as the ‘tail-end-Charlie’ of Frank’s children, I received more than my fair share of Grandmother’s attention. She seemed never too busy to make those delicious triangular-shaped donuts (Brown Bobbies) in some mysterious fashion.”
Frank remembers, “During the long hot summer we often had homemade ice cream. What a treat that was! Grandma would mix the ingredients while we helped Daddy dig out a block of ice from the ice house. He would wash off all the sawdust under the well pump. Then we would slip the block into a gunny sack and hit it with the side of an axe until it was broken into small pieces.”
“When the ice cream was finished, Daddy would call for Grandma to bring out a pan and some spoons. The mixing paddle was pulled slowly out of the ice cream. After a short argument about who would get to ‘lick the paddle’ and who would get to eat the ice cream that fell into the pan, we would all get a few mouthfuls of the delicious treat. Also, Grandma was an excellent cook who always had some of her cookies or burnt sugar cake for us kids.”
Auntie tells how Grandma made her deliciously browned roast beef, “She had a round-bottomed iron kettle that had legs on it. She would take the lid off the stove (firebox) and set the kettle right down on the flame. She put the beef into the kettle and, honestly, you’d swear that she was burnin’ it up but she never did. Then she would pour in the water and cook it. I’ve never, never tasted gravy like Mother’s.”
One of Grandma’s specialties was her Parker House rolls. Everyone wanted her to make them when they came to dinner. Auntie says, “She’d mix up those crazy Parker House rolls and I never saw the time that she didn’t have people set down to the table, take the rolls out of the oven, put ‘em on a plate and take ‘em to the table. If I’d try to do it either I’d have ‘em done an hour early or an hour late!”
Auntie laughs when she recalls, “I’ll never forget one day when Aunt Ruth and her family drove in unexpectedly and Herbie came over. He was so tickled and said, ‘We’ve got company and Grandma will have Parker House rolls.’ He just knew that Grandma never failed when company came to make them and he wouldn’t believe Aunt Ruth’s ‘No’. He opened the over door and there was no rolls and his face was about a mile long.” For the uninformed, raised dough Parker House rolls do take some planning ahead!
(Note: Aunt Ruth—Ruth Cosens Stephens, widow of Jennie’s youngest brother, Hal, who lived at Ronan at that time.)
Aunt Geneva and Grandmother were a real team when it came to entertaining. Auntie often made the angel food cake and the salad and peeled the potatoes and vegetables. She set the table, all pretty, getting out the fine linen or hand-crocheted table cloth, the hand-painted china and the fine silver. This was all done in the dining room adjacent to the living room; I always stuck around learning how it was done, trying to help and especially waiting for an invitation. Later, Herb was to follow the same process. Often an invitation was extended no matter who the guests were to be.
During the week Grandma worked hard in our large garden which was located southwest of the barnyard about a quarter of a mile from the house. We grew large quantities of squash, pumpkins, and cantaloupe as well as corn, beans and root and salad vegetables. I can still see her coming in at noon, hot and tired, wearing her sun hat. She would wash up a bit and without ever remembering to remove her hat, prepare dinner (supper was the evening meal). In the afternoon she would rest before taking up her numerous other duties.
For all the warmth and love in the kitchen it was a terribly inefficient place in which to work. Grandmother spent a great deal of time walking from the corner sink, which had no related counters, to the big table in the middle of the room which served as a work surface, to the Kitchen Queen in the opposite corner, to the range and then to the pantry in another direction.
Dishwashing was always done by scrapping and staking the dirty dishes on one end of the table; washing and rinsing them in pans placed on the top of the range to keep the water hot during the process. Clean dishes were then placed on the other end of the table to be carried to the pantry. Fortunately, in those days all hands pitched in to help when big dinner parties were given.
The Milk House, The Cats, The Well
One of the most unique buildings on the ranch was the milk house. It was located right outside Grandma’s back door. It was a small, low building with thick, masonry fieldstone walls, and a concrete floor. The interior was frequently white-washed to keep it clean for the purpose that it served; milk, cream, butter, eggs and other foods were stored there.
Herb recalls the crocks with smelly dill pickles, dill and other aromatic herbs. He remembers, too, how he “helped” turn the handle of the cream separator which was also located in this cool building. The separator was a marvelous contraption into which milk was poured. Turning the handle drove the milk around and around until the cream came out one spout and the skimmed milk another. The skimmed milk had a great foam built up on it as it fell into the bucket.
The family always enjoyed telling the story about me when I was a little girl—how I was busy talking and backed up and sat right down in the bucket of skimmed milk! The foam just shot up all around my head. I was one sticky mess.
Between the back door to the house and the door to the milk house was an areaway where the cats congregated. On a farm there are lots of cats—there are other cats and grandmother cats and great-grandmother cats and baby cats and, of course Tom cats!! Feeding them isn’t too great a problem because there are lots of mice to be caught plus pans of skimmed milk and table scraps. When we’d step outside the door sometimes there’d be just one big MEOW there were so many cats.
There was a hand pump located near by, over the well. Although there was water in the house, for some reason, Grandma or Grandpa thought that the water that came through the pipes was not to their liking so their drinking water was hand pumped and carried into the house in a pail. It was placed on a stand in the corner of the kitchen near the sink and a dipper was placed in it.
If you wanted a drink of water you lifted the dipper and drank from it. When I look back on it now and think how everyone in the family, the hired men and the people who came to visit—all drank out of the dipper! We didn’t catch anything-we survived. We wouldn’t think of doing that today, we’d be afraid of germs.
Our Grandparent’s Living Room
The living room extended along two-thirds of the south side of the house. In the east end (Herb calls this the “parlor”) were the piano, chairs and a plant stand upon which sat the large Christmas cactus which bloomed profusely each year. Later the radio was added to this half of the living room.
Several of the oil paintings Grandmother had completed in college were hung in the living room. Frank remembers, “Jennie Stephens was a talented artist in her younger years and the walls of her home displayed many of her paintings. My favorite was of some deer by a mountain lake. I called them ‘doggies’.”
The family gathered, for the most part, in the west end near the big roll top desk where the wondrous wood and coal burning heating stove sat. To children’s yes it looked huge—not so big around, but tall, and oh, it was fancy. Black and shiny, its fenders and trim nickel plated, it had an ornate swing-away top where a kettle could be placed to heat water. It had isinglass windows through which the fire could be seen.
There was no central heating and in the winters when it turned very cold, most of the house, except the kitchen and living room, was shut off. This warm place drew the family closer together.
Grandma’s rocking chair sat near the big stove and one of my earliest memories is of being rocked in that chair. She would sing, “Oh where, oh where is my little dog gone? Oh where, oh where can he be? With this tail cut short and his ears cut long; oh where, oh where can he be?” She would sing it over and over until I would finally go to sleep. I was rocked miles in that chair.
If I were particularly cross or fussy she would say, “Hark! Hark! Do you hear those coyotes up on the hill? Hark! Listen! I hear those coyotes.” Now, I never did hear those coyotes—as long as I lived on that ranch. I think it was just a trick to get me to be quiet and go to sleep. Maybe she could remember when she was a little girl and hear the coyotes, but I never heard them where we lived.
Our Grandmother was Irish and one of the things I remember, as I grew older, was wondering about what kind of Irish she was. I had heard there were two kinds: Lace-
Curtain Irish and keep-the-pig-in the-parlor Irish!!
She did have lace curtains and this was one of the bug-a-boos of Aunt Geneva. Grandpa wouldn’t keep his hands off the lace curtains! He didn’t like those curtains screening his view of what was going on out there on the ranch! He was always fussing at them and pulling them back. Finally she had to concede to him so that at the window where he sat, the lace curtains didn’t extend all the way across. So…she was lace-curtain Irish.
She was also, sometimes, pig-in-the-parlor Irish. When we had an old sow that would have a BIG litter of little pigs and she didn’t have enough “faucets” to go around, the little runt, the one that got shunted away and looked as if it were going to starve to death, was put in a bushel basket on top of a gunny sack (burlap bag). It was brought into the house and set right behind that great big, ornate heating stove for several days until it could recuperate. It was fed with a bottle to get it going again. Oh, how we did love to come over to Grandma’s house when it was farrowing time for the sows and find a little pig in the parlor!
Sleeping at Grandmother’s
“We had wonderful grandparents,” remembers Frank. “Grandma’s house was only a few steps away and we were always welcome. If we had to be punished at home we could always find refuge there. Many times I would run away from home and spend the night at Grandma’s house.”
Herb looks backward in time and says, “I suppose my first recollection of them (his Grandparents) was about 1930 when, dressed in snowsuit and mittens, I had my picture taken in the snow at their home. I spent much of my life, between 2 and 6 years of age, at their house. Then we moved to the farm just outside Hamilton and my visits were restricted to the weekends during the school year.
“Summertime was different, however, and I was able to spend days at a time with them during those wonderful, warm summer days. Today I can far better remember their house and floor plan than I can either of our houses in Montana.”
“Grandma would let me have my friend, Bobby Greenup, over to spend the night. I well remember on a summer evening in 1938 or 1939 when we slept out all night on her front lawn. The newspaper had told of how there would be lots of ‘shooting stars’ that night. I can still see us lying out there on our bedrolls watching God’s display……”
“I suppose we had some of Grandma’s pancakes for breakfast the next morning. She almost always had them and would feed the left-overs to her pack of cats. Honestly, those cats would actually fight over her pancakes and, come to think of it, I’ve never seen a cat eat a pancake since!”
Herb continues, “I remember staying overnight at Grandma’s house and sleeping upstairs with Auntie. There was a heat register in the ceiling of the living room over the big stove and it was delightful in the cold winter time to stand over it while dressing for bed.”
“On Sunday morning Auntie would drive us to Hamilton where she was organist at the little Christian Science Church. I would sit with Grandma and I recall the singing and responsive reading and how proud I was of my Auntie up there playing away on the organ. After church it was back to the ranch for a big Sunday dinner. I had to be on my best behavior as often we had ‘company’ and we would eat in the dining room.”
Darryl does not mention staying overnight although he did many times. He spent at least two vacations on the ranch in the early 1940s at which time he and his friend, Dickie Summers, thoroughly explored the ranch buildings and played in them. He remembers, “The ranch house seemed immense in the eyes of one under four feet tall, particularly the stair banister that was forbidden territory.”
“Although I am told the ranch had some of the earliest indoor plumbing in Western Montana, I do recall a ‘two holer’ not far from the barn which held great interest for a city boy on a summer vacation.”
Chocolate Drops and Limburger Cheese
Grandpa loved his grandchildren and he was very good to us. When he went to town he would bring home treats. One of these was dome-shaped chocolate-covered mints that he brought in a small, brown paper bag. We got so we knew when he returned and weren’t long getting there to be given a piece of candy.
Frank remembers, “The limburger was my favorite. Grandpa followed a standard procedure with it. First he would get out his old pocket knife and carefully wipe the blade on his shirt sleeve to sterilize it!!”
Frank and I were real limburger cheese eaters. In those days limburger came in a very, very heavy foil. They didn’t have aluminum foil in those days. I suspect it was lead foil and it’s a wonder it didn’t kill us now that we know that lead can create problems.
I can remember Grandpa setting that chunk of cheese on the kitchen table and very carefully unwrapping it. Our mouths would just be drooling.
“This seemed to take forever to accomplish,” Frank adds. “Finally he would cut off a small slice and hold it out to be eaten. We had to be careful not to cut our lips. The first bite smelled bad but succeeding bites were delicious. He would laugh at our Grandmother’s scolding about feeding us kids that smelly stuff.”
Once we’d had our fill the cheese was then carefully rewrapped and the knife put away. We would go home and would hardly get into the house when Mother would scream, “Your Grandpa’s been giving you that rotten limburger cheese again!” She would get so angry because it did smell terrible. But we thought it was great—and still do, to this day. It makes us think of Grandpa whenever we eat it.
The Potato Bug Story and Grandma’s Pot of Gold
From Frank’s memories comes this account, “One summer evening Daddy came in from the potato patch to report that the potato bugs were damaging the vines. He offered to pay Marge and me to pick the bugs off the plants until he could find time to spray the crop with Paris Green. He agreed to pay us fifty cents a quart for our efforts.
“We were up early the next morning to start making our fortune. We soon found that it took a lot of work just to cover the bottom of the quart jar with bugs. Grandma saw us and asked what we were doing. When we told her about the job and Daddy’s offer she said that that was ridiculous and that she would fix him by helping us.”
“She came back from the house carrying a large stack of old newspapers and her broom. She had us place the paper sheets end to end between the rows of potatoes. Then she took her broom and swept over the vines, knocking off the bugs by the hundreds. It was a simple matter to pick up the newspapers and funnel the bugs into the jars.
“We soon had two quarts filled. When Daddy came in at noon he couldn’t believe his eyes! Grandma was near at hand to make him pay up. After we had pocketed our fifty cents we told him how we had done it.
Grandmother patiently endured the hard work and lack of money but her longing for better times is recorded in Herb’s memories as follows, “I recall during the depths of the Depression playing a game with Grandma called ‘what we’ll do when the Townsend Plan is adopted.’ The Townsend Plan was named after a man who had the idea, ahead of his time, to give every one over 65 a monthly pension check. He never was able to get the idea through Congress but that didn’t stop us from dreaming and planning what we would do with Grandma’s check when it arrived.”
Grandma answered a magazine ad and bought a Brown Bobbie machine. This contraption made triangular, greaseless doughnuts the sale of which was guaranteed to make one rich. Grandmother did sell some of them but for the most part they became another delicious treat for the family and particularly for grandchildren, Herb and Darryl.
Shaving, Barbering and Doctoring
Another thing I recall about my Grandfather was when he shaved. It was a very serious business. He shaved only every week or two, becoming quite grizzled between times, because it was practically an all-afternoon task.
He often did this when Grandmother was gone or busy elsewhere in the house because he took over the entire kitchen. He had to heat the water on the kitchen stove and bring out towels, his razor and his razor strop, his soap and brushes, and all the needed paraphernalia. This was all laid out just so on a towel on the kitchen table. Everything was very meticulous and clean—Grandpa had heard of “barber’s itch” and wanted to avoid it.
After stropping his razor he carefully began. The whole process took about two hours. My brothers and I had to stand way back and be on our best behavior if we wanted to watch Grandpa shave.
Herb says, “When I grew a little older, Grandpa made a deal with me to be his barber. He came up with a comb, a pair of hand clippers and a dishtowel which I pinned around his neck and proceeded to ‘scalp’ him. The first few times he looked as if he had just come out of ‘Boot Camp,’ but as time went on I gave him a fair—not good—haircut for which he paid me a quarter each time.”
“In those Depression Years of the mid-thirties it was a small fortune for a lad. You’d be surprised how much you could buy for 25 cents at Boren’s Dime Store in Hamilton!’
Grandpa had a deep and enduring suspicion of doctors and threatened them with dire things whenever the other members of the family suggested that one might be called to care for him. Instead, his faith was in patent medicines. He had two in particular that he used. The first was named simply, “Pain Killer” and the other, “Heart Medicine.” They had the most intriguing pictures on the labels—our first anatomy lessons.
They also had a high alcohol content and I suspect, looking back on all this, that during Prohibition time, when Grandpa couldn’t get a little snort of whiskey, he would take a little snort of “Pain Killer”! He would just put some in a glass with a little water, give it a quick stir and drink it down….
Grandpa had some very unusual home remedies although I suspect that at the time he was being raised in New York State, they were quite common.
One of these was the cure for sore throat. First of all, I think it would be well to recall that in those days of limited clothes washing facilities, our socks were not changed daily—if they were changed weekly might even be challenged! Grandpa’s cure: Remove your sock and immediately, while it is still warm, place the foot part squarely over the sore spot, wrap the remainder around your neck and secure it snugly with a safety pin. In the morning your throat will be much better!
Another cure that almost blew Jim Coombs’ mind when I married him and told him of it was the one for croup. Grandpa’s cure: Swallow a few drops of coal oil (kerosene) placed on a teaspoon of sugar!
For a cut or even a puncture wound from a rusty nail—Grandpa’s cure: Soak the wound in turpentine! When I consider the high tetanus risk that we ran on the farm—barefooted—I shudder. The turpentine must have worked!
Ditches and Discipline
Darryl remembers, “I was intrigued by Grandma’s garden and in particular the canals and streamlets designed to effect irrigation.”
When we wanted to water the gardens we would make rills and flow the water through them. When the lawn was to be watered we put a dam in the ditch and flooded it. That was fun on a hot day—to slide on the grass and flop down in the water. I often wonder how the grass ever grew with all that rough treatment but it was sure fun while we were doing it.
Another thing that was really great was to run little homemade boats down all those miniature canals and build little ports in the muddy banks to which we could tie up our fleet.
We would run upstream, sometimes as far as the chicken house, and put in our boats following them through the small elevated flume that ran through the back of our property, through the culvert into Grandmother’s yard, and continuing to our port, usually located on the north side of her house.
These small ditches also were the home of tadpoles, frogs, minnows and garter snakes. It was a tempting place in which to play and so shallow that our Mother need not worry about our drowning. It did create problems, however, when the season was chilly or when we were dressed for some special occasion.
Frank remembers, “One time while playing in the small irrigation ditch in Grandma’s front yard, Grandma approached with a small stick to punish me for getting my clothes wet. I began running in place saying, ‘Grandma, put dat switch down, I be a good boy.’ I can’t remember her ever hitting any of us kids with the switch. All she had to do was pick it up and we would behave.”
Frank continues, “I was kind of mean to my little brother, Herb. I guess I resented the attention he always got from the adults. One time I loaded my B.B. gun with a toothpick and shot him in the back. I caught heck for that.”
“Herbie and I were playing on Grandma’s front porch once when he was about two years old. I decided to play a trick on him. I asked him to go out to the corner of the yard where the bee hives were located and bring me a bee. He promptly followed my orders and returned with a bee in his little hand. I couldn’t understand why the bee hadn’t stung him. As I took it from his hand to examine it closely the critter stung me! After that I figured the good Lord was on Herbie’s side so I started treating him better.”
Herb recalls, “Grandma didn’t hesitate to keep me in line by threatening to use her ‘stick’ on me. The stick was a short twig off a tree or bush and only occasionally was it used. I recall once when I was older of putting a board under my overalls in the appropriate spot when I knew I was really going to ‘get it’. She swatted me with her hand that time and somehow managed to cut it on the wood. Boy, did I feel bad then! I dearly loved her and surely didn’t want to see her harmed in any way.”
Tea and Coffee
One of the curious things about Grandpa was the way he drank his tea. English Grandpa and Irish Grandma were big tea drinkers. They put plenty of cream and sugar in their tea and drank quantities of it.
Grandpa did something that was really fascinating to watch. He would mix his tea, cream and sugar in his cup and then pour it carefully into his saucer until it was level full—at least it looked to me to be. He would then get his hand under the saucer in some way, balancing it on the tips of his fingers, lift it up to his mouth and drink it. Well, it was really a juggler’s trick and it had my brothers and me bug-eyed! It is no wonder that we were always clamoring at our Mother to let us eat with Grandma and Grandpa.
As I grew older I thought, oh, Grandpa, your table manners are terrible. I was embarrassed by them. Then one day I read a book and learned that when Grandpa was growing up, that manner of drinking tea was considered to be very proper—to saucer and blow your tea! In fact, there were special saucers so that your cup could be set in a smaller saucer while you were using the regular, larger saucer from which to drink.
Grandpa’s Mother, Matilda Vincent, came for a visit and stayed a year. She, too, was a tea drinker and Auntie tells, “She never drank water. Along in the afternoon she would make a gravy bowl full of tea, go into the living room, sit in a rocking chair, rock and sip her tea. It took her about an hour and a half to drink it all.”
Coffee was made less frequently but Auntie tells, “Grandma Stephens (arriving home from a visit to Butte) brought the first percolator to the ranch. I think it was the first one brought into Ravalli County.
“Mother got it all ready; she followed all the directions and put it on the stove. At that time we had about three hired men besides the family and Grandma.”
“We all stood there watching. Those men kept saying, ‘It won’t do it, it won’t perc—there’s nothing down there to make it come up—it won’t do it, no, it won’t do it..’ This went on for between five and ten minutes and pretty soon ‘kerpoook, kerpook, kerpook’ and there it was….we had percolated coffee for supper that night.”
In 1900, following the death of Frank Stephens and after his widow, Jane, came to make her home with the Vincents, she proposed that Jennie and she make the trip together to visit Jane’s son, Hal, in Palo Alto, California. The trip became a reality when Matilda and Seymour Vincent traveled west from Vermont to stay with Clinton and the children. This was undoubtedly one of the highlights of Grandmother’s life.
Many years later, in 1951, Auntie recalls taking Grandmother to visit Velma, Herb and infant daughter, Karen. Auntie says, “I got her all ready and said, ‘Now is there anything else that you want me to get for you to take to California?’ Her reply, ‘Well, if it wouldn’t be too expensive I’d like a new pair of gloves.’” Auntie concludes, “I still have the gloves…bless her heart…navy blue gloves.”
Cars and Other New-Fangled Inventions
Grandpa liked cars. My Dad and Aunt Geneva learned to drive some of the first cars in the area (1910-1920). The family owned a Chalmers, a Chevrolet and a Buick—all early models.
Photo from about 1921
Pictured left to right
Geneva Vincent (1894 - 1989)
Hannah Jane (Jennie) Stephens - Vincent (1855 - 1959)
Marjorie June Vincent, Age 2 (1919 - 2014)
Flossie Jewel Pyle - Vincent (1895 - 1981)
Frank Seymour Vincent (1891 - 1936)
Matilda Maria Curtis Vincent, Clinton's Mother (1835 - 1926)
Clinton Joy Vincent (1857 - 1942)
Auntie tells this story about Grandpa, “One day Dad asked Frank (her brother) to teach him to drive. After some instruction he started down the lane to the main road, took a right turn and disappeared up the hill toward Grantsdale. A little later we looked out toward the northwest and saw him coming toward home—having made the loop—but instead of turning in as expected, he continued on up the hill toward Grantsdale.”
“Again we watched him coming toward home—but again he went on by. This continued about twenty or twenty-five times until he ran out of gas—right at the ranch lane, luckily. He shouted, ‘I didn’t know how to get the damned thing stopped!’ He was afraid that if he came onto the property he would run into one of the buildings. He just went around and around and we all stood out there laughing.”
Grandpa became so attached to the cars—some of which had been beautiful, expensive models—that he could never part with them. Instead they were driven down into the pasture or back by the ice house, parked and left to deteriorate. I can see Herb and Frank now, with tears in their eyes, because they would love to have those old cars. We didn’t fully appreciate their worth. They weren’t “old” cars, but rather cars that no longer ran or for which parts were no longer available.
New inventions, too, were a fascination for Grandpa. As I tape-recorded my memories I wished so intensely that he could have been beside me to see the wheels go around and hear my voice played back. He loved new gadgets.
He was gone many years before television but that would have been a wonderful treat for him, too. The radio was a tremendous attraction and he had one on the ranch fairly early—a Philco cabinet model, if my memory serves me correctly.
He was so intrigued with all the stations, though, that he could rarely listen to one for more than five minutes without flipping to another station. He was sure that he was missing something. It was a hassle to listen to the radio with Grandpa who would flip, flip, flip back and forth and that, coupled with the squeak, squawk, squeak of the static, was indeed a bewilderment.
Auntie reports that he always relinquished his post at the radio and turned it completely over to her and Grandma when the Christian Science lesson was broadcast on Sunday evening.
Music, Art and Hard Labor
Grandmother had taken piano lessons when she attended the College of Montana and the family always had a piano. Among the family mementoes is the program of the Annual Concert of the College of Montana, Tuesday evening, June 12, 1888. Listed first on the program was a two-piano number titled “Minuet” by Boccherini. Grandmother was one of the four girls performing this selection.
Many years later Auntie attempted to get her interested in playing once more by helping her play “The Blackhawk Waltz”. Auntie says, “With a little help she did fairly well; I’m sorry they didn’t have tapes in those days. That was the last time I ever heard her play.”
Grandmother also gave up her oil painting and Auntie recalls using up the last of her paints to dabble.
In earlier times Grandmother embroidered and crocheted. Auntie recalls an embroidered home decoration of the era and says, “These items were draped over one corner of a picture and if you had one of these you really had something.” Grandmother made some of these but for the most part she was too busy keeping house and gardening and too tired when evening came to do that kind of thing.
Then, too, Grandmother read a great deal, her education having whetted her curiosity for knowledge. This left less time for the needlework that was so prevalent among the women of that time. She seemed to thoroughly enjoy keeping current on the events of the world.
Grandma and Auntie never worked in the fields as did some farm women of that area and that era except a few times during the potato harvest. Then they hired a girl to do the cooking and joined the men, carrying a bushel basket between them, picking up the potatoes; keeping up with the men and picking as much as they did.
As Grandmother stooped to pick up the Montana soil’s bounty did she ever think of her grandparents lying beneath far off Irish sod—struck down in their prime by famine? I wonder.
Politics and Religion
Grandpa was a Democrat and he liked nothing better than to argue politics. When I became a young woman and returned home for a visit we would sit and talk politics—it was a real challenge for me and a boost to my ego that Grandpa wanted my opinion.
At one time his cousin, Charles Herbert Vincent (for whom Herb was named), lived just a short distance from the ranch. This was before my time but I am told that Charley, as they called him, would come over to get some milk or eggs and would end up spending most of the day arguing politics with Grandpa.
Our Dad, Frank Seymour, served for years on the local Election Board. The election was held in the school house so school was dismissed for this day of celebration. The Ladies Aid from the Grantsdale Church held an old-fashioned bazaar and served a sumptuous meal that brought the farmers from miles around to spend the day eating, visiting, voting and talking crops. Grandpa and the entire family were always involved and eager to learn, the following morning, just what the outcome might be.
Grandpa never attended church in the span of my memory although I believe that he was a God-fearing man. He was a member of the Masonic Order but unlike Grandma, took no active part.
Our Grandparents were wonderful on holidays. Two in particular—minor days of celebration—I would like to recall.
When Halloween time came and we were too small to go out and assist with the devilment that was prevalent in those days in rural areas, our Dad helped us make ticktacks and jack o’lanterns. The former were made from an empty sewing thread spool notched on the edges. It had a large nail stuck through the hole and string would around the spool.
Halloween night we would go very quietly, on tiptoe, carrying our ticktacks and our lanterns, to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. We would place the spool against the window pane, hold the nail and pull the string. Those notches would make a great racket against the glass and Grandpa, oh, Grandpa was marvelous! He would jump up, throw his hands in the air and race down through the house. We could see him through the several windows in the living room. He put on such a good show for us—we thought we were really scaring him good. I can’t remember Grandma’s reactions so much but she took part too.
The other day was May Day. In Montana it is still quite cold on May first and we had to hunt to find enough flowers to fill the May baskets that we had made. To these were added a few pieces of candy.
That evening we would go to Grandma’s front door with our baskets, crouched down because we might be seen through the big front window, tiptoe onto the front porch’s squeaky boards, set down the baskets, ring the front door bell and RUN. Grandma and Grandpa would come out and their exclamations of appreciation for this simple gift filled us with joy!
Others Remember Them
Leona June Stephens Sterling, Grandmother’s niece, daughter of Ruth and Hal Stephens recalls, “What stands out most as I was growing up was the weeks my sister, Ramona, and I spend on the ranch in Grantsdale each summer. I wonder how Auntie (Jennie) put up with us and the Fisk girls.”
Doris Fisk McIntyre, great-granddaughter of Margaret Parker Moran, Jennie’s maternal aunt and oldest daughter of Mamie Whiney Fisk and George Fisk recalls, “I spent every summer at their house until I got into High School. I loved it so much up there I could hardly wait ‘till school was out to go. Auntie (Jennie) used to go and work in the garden and I’d be right behind her. I followed her like a shadow.”
“When Darcy and I were married we lived in the smaller house when our son Duane was about three. Darcy wants to add that he was so fond of Auntie he liked to do things for her.”
The Fisk family lived in Hamilton and the Hal Stephenses in Missoula and later in Ronan.
Our Mother, Flossie Pyle Vincent Olsen, remembers, “I was very fortunate marrying into the C. J. Vincent family. They were very good to me.”
“Grandma Vincent was as near a saint as ever walked on their earth—kind, good and loving. Grandpa, too, in his own way. He dearly loved his grandchildren. He went to town . . .and often brought home Limburger cheese and sliced off pieces for each of you kids. When you came home I would hardly let you in the house!”
“His old Ford truck brought him home every day if he wasn’t quite up to par. What a character!”
An Anniversary and Farewell
Herb reminisces, “I guess the biggest social event I witnessed my Grandparents involved in was their Golden Wedding Anniversary in August 1939. It was something special in those days to have reached that milestone and a lot of planning and preparation went into the event. Invitations were sent, food was prepared and the house decorated with everyone ‘spruced up’ for the day. I even gave Grandpa an extra good haircut!”
“Folks came from miles around to wish them well and bring a gift for the occasion. The crowd of friends and relatives overflowed the house where even the parlor was used that day. The yard was full of cars and people and I was quite impressed by such a crowd.”
That Christmas was to be my Mother and my three brother’s last one in Montana as soon after the holidays they departed for California to make their home. I had moved to Spokane in 1937.
I poignantly remember bedtime in the big ranch house. When all were tucked in for the night Grandpa’s heavy sighs would echo throughout the house as he repeated over and over, “Bless the little man” or “Bless the little girl” until we all dropped off to sleep—Grandpa’s benediction.
“Grandma Jennie was truly a wonderful pioneer woman with a deep faith in God and a spirit that would not be defeated,” concludes Herb. “She had a world of patience, love and understanding and was loved by all who knew her.”
Summing up, my brother, Frank, says simply, “We had wonderful Grandparents.”
An old-fashioned yellow rose grows in our alley in Spokane. Cuttings of these flowers were carried by pioneer women crossing the country in their Conestoga Wagons and planted lovingly when they established their first Western homes. Grandmother had one of these in her front yard.
Our (Marge’s) old-fashioned yellow rose bush in Spokane, grows most determinedly and prodigiously, suffering drought—never given the care demanded by more privileged roses, and pushing up through the asphalt paving. Each year, about June first, Grandmother’s birthday, it bursts suddenly into radiant bloom, filling the air with its lovely perfume. For me it is a parallel—a perfect symbol—a lovely reminder of Grandmother!
Darryl expresses it so well for all of us when he says, “I think that in some fashion my own children have been deprived by never knowing the experience of such a ranch. . . “ And about Grandmother, he pays tribute, “I do not think I ever heard Jennie Vincent raise her voice or rebuke anyone. If she did it was never within my earshot. She seemed to have an uncommon grace.”
Hannah Jane (Jennie) Stephens - Vincent
1855 - 1959
Clinton Joy Vincent
1857 - 1942
Wood and coal burning heating stove rendering
artwork by Marge's friend, Joy Arsenault
We Remember Jennie and Clinton Vincent
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction
In whole or in part in any form
Copyright 1977 by Marjorie Vincent Coombs
Reprinted with permission from
February 16, 2009.
Vincent Ranch, Grantsdale, Montana
Between 1910 and 1913
Pictured left to right:
Clinton Joy Vincent, Clinton's mother, Matilda Curtis - Vincent visiting from New York,
Charles Herbert Vincent Clinton's cousin and neighbor, Charles' wife, May Vincent,
Jennie Stephens - Vincent, Clinton's wife, Providence Jane Parker - Stephens, Jennie's mother (who lived at the ranch),
Ethel Forrest, Frank SeymourVincent's girlfriend
Geneva Vincent, Clinton and Jennie's Daughter
In the foreground is pictured Maudie Smith, the daughter of a widower neighbor to whom the Vincent's gave a home until she was an adult.
Not pictured, photographer, Frank Seymour Vincent, Clinton and Jennie's son who married Flossie Jewel Pyle on November 9, 1918
THRESHING MACHINE AND TRACTOR
Flossie and Herb