LaSalle County

Autobiography - Mary Estella McElhenie

I was born in La Salle on the second of November 1877 in a house on Wright Street between Second and Third, owned by Mr. Vollmer. I am the youngest of three children.

La Salle is situated on the Illinois river in the State of Illinois. It has in the course of my life undergone a great many improvements, and is at the present time a thriving city.

At the age of a year and a half, I went to live with my grandfather, who lives in the same city about a block from where I was born.

When I was two years old while standing at a window looking out, the window suddenly came down on my hand and crushed it. My screams brought the members of the household to my relifef. With a great deal of difficulty, they at last succeeded in raising the window from my hand. It was very painful, but by careful nursing was saved from being amputated which at one time was thought would have to be done.

When I was three years old I went through my childish ills, Measles and Hooping Cough.

My mother and I went to visit my aunt in Shenoa (maybe Genoa). We stayed there several months and my fifth birthday was spent there. I remember, on the morning of my birthday as I was sitting on the lounge, my mother asked me if I would give my birthday to my cousin, but I said I would not. My Aunt Angie who was visiting in Chicago at the time came home, by the way of Shenoa, and took me home. My mother stayed two or three months after that.

I started school when I was five years old. I went to the First Ward or as it was called “The Old Brick.” The school was just a half a block from where I lived so I did not have very far to go. On the first day that I went, I got so frightened that I commenced to cry and the teacher asked me what was the matter and I told her that I wanted to go to my sister, who went to the same school, but in a different room.

My first teacher was Miss Murphy, but she did not teach that room very long for she was assigned a higher grade, and Miss O’Keef took her place. She used to call me a chatterbox. I suppose it was because I talked so much.

My disposition at this time was a rather cross one or if you should put it in other words a crying one, but I hope that I have by this time outgrown it to some extent.

In my earlier years my cousin was with me a greater part of the time, so that I was very seldom wanting a playmate. I am just three months her junior.

I again went to Miss Murphy who as I stated before was teaching a higher grade. I remained in that room, but one year.

My next teacher was Miss Lynch, whom I liked pretty well. She used to give rewards of mint and presents for good attendance and (presents) other things. I always got something for my good attendance, and once I received a “Reward of Merit” for Reading. When I was in the room, my cousin, Ina, came here to go to school, because they did not have very good schools where she lived. She did not stay only two or three months, for she got so homesick, that she could not stay any longer. When I was in the A class, my sister took me over to her school one Friday afternoon. She was in the high school then and I felt rather frightened among all the big girls.

I had no pets, but my Uncle who lived in the same yard, with my grandfather, always had a dog and I used to play with them a great deal nevertheless, like most all other children, my favorite past time was playing with my dolls.

My grandfather used to rent a portion of his house on the ground floor and at one time the family who lived there had a little girl of about my own age, so of course we always played together a great deal. My favorite playmate was Beulah Corley, who lived just across the street from us. So we could slip away and be together most anytime. In the summer evenings, a lot of girls would come over to our house and we would play hide and seek.

My fourth teacher was Miss Carey. I started to her, when I was nine years old. I went to her but one year, for she promoted me into the A Class a little after Christmas. At this time the diptheria was very bad in La Salle. They had to close the schools for one month. When they were opened again, there was only three or four came in each room.

The first of June my cousin Zella McElhenie died with the diptheria. She was about my own age, being but two months younger than myself.

The last of June my class was examined by Mr. Thomas to enter the Grammar room, and I passed the highest.

A few days after school was closed for the summer vacation, I met with my first sad experience, the death of my mother. I was ten years old when she died. I spent all but two weeks of this vacation with my Aunt Carrie in Elpaso.

When school started again, I went to Mr. Dooley. I was never a very good girl in this room because the teacher was so easy with us, letting us do most anything we pleased. In this room, there was several girls who used to go together a great deal. We formed a club, which happily did not last long, for the members never agreed, and were constantly having fusses. At the close of this school year, my sister graduated.

About this time, and even earlier, I entertained a great passion for reading which I am sorry to say, has grown more and more as I grow older.

My next teacher was Miss Fairfield. I liked her the best of any teacher I had yet had. Perhaps this was the reason I always had my lessons so well in this room, for I always stood among the first.

My Sunday School teacher was married about this time, and she invited all of her class to the wedding. My sister and aunt were also invited but I did not go with them, as I had promised to go with two others of my classmates, who did not have anybody to go with. There was a lady who went with us also. It had been threatening rain all day. When we were all ready to start, the sky looked very black and foretold a violent thunderstorm. Nevertheless we started, hoping to reach there before it burst forth. I kept thundering and lightening all the way up. When had almost reached our destination, we came to a house which we expected to step in, just as it commenced to sprinkle. They called us in, and another girl and I went in but the lady kept on, and we rushed after her. The rain came down in before we could reach another house. Our time was spoiled to some extent, though we enjoyed ourselves, as well as our wet clothes would permit us.

I was again examined by Mr. Thomas to enter the high school. My teachers now were Miss Werley and Mr. Coleman. The latter soon resigned, and Mr. Kohin took his place.

My Aunt Carrie died on the first of March, her remains were brought to La Salle to be buried. She left four children and they lived with us until the next August, when they went to live with their father in Fairbury.

That summer my cousin, Rosabelle McElhenie, died.

On the sixteenth of March, 1892, my grandfather’s and grandmother’s fiftieth anniversary came, and we celebrated it by having a few of our relations here.

This brings my life up to the present time at the age of fourteen years.

Contributor's Note: This paper was written by Mary Estella McElhenie for school. She received a grade of 87. She lived November 2, 1877 – September 4, 1896 – just 5 years after this was written.

Contributed 19 Apr 2018 by Mary Saggio [email protected]

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