Our New House, 1895 chapter in Autobiography of Mary Etta Lillian Peterson Michael compiled December 1989, pages 23-27 Our home, located on the corner of Washington and Jefferson Streets in Towanda, Illinois, was built by Herman and Charles White of Towanda for Mary E. and George W. Peterson in 1895. At that time Block #3 was a pasture enclosed by a barbed-wire fence and the village sidewalks in this neighborhood were made of a 12-16 inch board or just a path from our former home (the present Shelton residence 1 block east). My father or brother Harry often brought me to the new location to watch the carpenters work. One day while the men were digging the basement, Harry set me on the northwest edge with my feet dangling over the side to watch the men working with spades and shovels and ask a lot of unnecessary questions. Finally, I asked about all those holes in the sides of the earthen walls, they told me they were animal and snake holes and I had better look out, one might stick his head out and bite me. Needless to say, I quickly left--and bothered no more. The new house was quite stately and when we moved in, there was a beautiful white picket fence all around the yard with four gates. It lasted 31 years, until 1926, when it was worn out and torn down. Other buildings on the premises were a large red barn, chicken house, shed, and outhouse. The barn had three stalls, one for Peoria, our horse, and one for Snip, Albert's pony, and one for the cow. There was a crib in one corner for the corn and space for the harness and beautiful new buggy. There was a canvas cover for the buggy to protect it from the dust. There was a strong ladder leading to the hay mow. When the Towanda Post Office received a new P.O. Box unit, they gave the old one to my father who was Postmaster at the time. He stored the box unit up in the hay mow where I spent hours at a time playing Postmaster with my dolls and kittens as customers. For this, my mother was persuaded to save all old envelopes, etc., which she would otherwise dispose of. One side of the chicken house was all roosts and the other, separated by wire fencing, was filled with boxes for the setting and laying hens and baby chicks. The shed consisted of a room for storage, a room each for cobs and coal, and the fourth was Lillian's playhouse. When the house was finished and the family was moving into it, I decided to bring my dolls and pet cats in our baby buggy in which both my brothers and I had outgrown (1879-1890). The dolls rode nicely but the cats created a problem. They kept jumping out of the buggy and running back home. Albert, 11, finally came to the rescue and we
Page 1 of 3
somehow got them moved, but we had to get them many times before they realized they had a new home. The house had a basic ochre color stain for the first few years and was later painted white. It consisted of eight rooms: kitchen, sitting room, parlor, two bedrooms downstairs, three bedrooms up. The large south bedroom upstairs was built for my two brothers, Harry � 16 and Albert (Allie) � 11, with two beds, two closets, etc. My grandmother, Mary E. Peterson, who lived with my parents from 1889 to 1906, slept in the east room. That room became mine after she passed away when I was 16, at which time it was redecorated in light blue and white at my request. The wallpaper was light blue and silver stripe with a drop ceiling. On the molding I set the photographs of all my friends. Curtains were white sheer. The bed was light blue iron with brass trim. For my 16th birthday, my two brothers gave me a beautiful new dresser. Until I got the new room, I played and slept in the north room up. We never had a Christmas tree, but for several years, after the church program my father brought the discarded tree home and set up in my room at my request. Sela Paisley came over often during the holidays to spend the day with me and we spent many pleasant hours decorating our tree and pretending. The old family reed organ, upon which Allie and I learned to play, was the main feature in the parlor until we got the new piano. The wallpaper was a dark red scroll pattern and the walls were enhanced with enlarged, framed portraits of relatives past and present. The carpeting in the sitting room was home made. Momma and Grandma sewed the strips of rags together and wound them into large balls. When they had a sufficient amount of balls, she took them to the home of Miss Angie Ware and her sister, Mrs. Martha Wise, who lived three blocks east of us next to where Farran Brown's house now is. Back of their house there was a building in which Angie had a huge loom on which she wove carpeting for the people in the community. The rags were woven into three feet wide strips of desired length, which were sewed together by hand with carpet warp. This carpeting was tacked to the floor over a layer of clean, fresh straw and was stretched by a wooden frame with sharp teeth turned by a crank to tighten or loosen. I used to help by driving tacks or sitting on the carpet to help hold it in place until someone tacked the edges down. My mother had the bay window built for her flowers, which was a special hobby which she enjoyed. The sitting room wallpaper was a beautiful dark green velvety scroll design much like that in the parlor except for color. The house was heated by coal stoves with a range in the kitchen. It was my job to carry in a bushel basket of cobs every day and fill all the lamps in the house with kerosene, three of which hung from the ceiling. The boys carried coal and wood and emptied ashes.
Page 2 of 3
In 1917-18 we had a hard coal heater, which was cleaner, but much more expensive; and finally hard coal was hard to get so we went back to regular coal heat. The registers in the ceilings allowed the heat to go upstairs. The northeast room was Mamma's kitchen. There was an entrance on the east and on the west. In 1905, Mamma had the White Brothers Contractors, who had built the house, come and build a large kitchen for a dining room. In the new kitchen, there was a west door and a north door entrance around the corner with a large porch clear around. There was a sink and pump in the northeast corner and also in the bathroom. The bathtub was made of zinc and lasted several years. All water was heated on the kitchen range for baths and laundry in a big cooper boiler. Pine trees were planted on both sides of the two front sidewalks and maples out in front. There was a nice garden and small orchard, and the rest of the block was pasture. As long as my father was in charge of the place, it was well kept and taken care of and everything in perfect order. In 1917 my mother bought a new Model T Ford, and the garage was built for it. My mother died February 22, 1918, just before George was born, April 5, and Bob was two and Louise four. At my father's urgent request, we came to live with him after she was gone. When he died October 7, 1938, Louise was 23, Bob 21, George 19, Winnie 17, Lotus 15, June 14, and Rose 12. Louise and Jay were married and lived in Dewitt. Bob and Ruth were married and lived in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In 1939, the Erwin brothers, Ed and Bill, built the basement under the new kitchen which was wonderful. We all enjoyed it until 1941 when the WPA dug up our drain a block west of here installing water into the village, which caused water to back up in our new basement. Nothing could be done about it as the WPA did not exist any longer, when we found out the cause. .
Page 3 of 3
Click tabs to swap between content that is broken into logical sections.
Illinois State University, Milner Library, Normal, IL, 61790 - for the Towanda Area Historical Society/Towanda District Library
Towanda Area Historical Society/Towanda District Library
The images in the Towanda Area Historical Society digital library may be viewed, downloaded, and printed for personal or educational use, but any commercial use is prohibited, without permission. Questions may be directed to the historical society at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the Towanda Illinois District Library at (309)728-2176.