Journal: Jeanette Sperry

I am the child of Charles Henry Sperry and Caroline Webb. He was born 15 October 1850 and she the 8th of April 1861.

He was the son of Charles Sperry and Emily Louisa Miller, she the daughter of David Webb and Esther Olpin.

After having three children, Charles Alonzo (Lon), David Arthur (Art) and Emily Esther (Esther) the next pair were twins, I came first and then my sister Jeanevery. When we were about six or seven weeks old Mother was sitting near a table with me lying across her lap, it was lunch time and the three older children were anxiously waiting for mother to give them some bread and butter, etc. I must have become restless for she reached her arm under my shoulders and raised me up a bit, then went on slicing bread. She was cutting towards herself, and the knife slipped and cut my little face, I still have the mark just above my left eye and one on the left nostril of my nose.

Try to image the confusion, with me, no doubt, crying at the top of my voice, and the blood streaming down my face. Mother sent Lon, my oldest brother, about seven years old, down for her father to come quick. It was nearly three blocks away. Grandfather Webb (David Webb) was a maker of salve both for human beings and also for cattle, anyway he saved my face but I still have a scar above my left eye and my left nostril. It must have been a terrible shock for my mother, still weak from her sickness. I have heard some of the family say that they had to send her away for a couple weeks to visit with her sister, Emma (Webb) Hague. I seem to have survived alright and the scar is scarcely discernible.

When the twins were about six months old we developed Erysipelas[1], mine went down my legs and through my toes, Jeanevery’s went up her back and formed a sore which made her very nervous.

One evening we were in the crib together, Father was sitting nearby the head of the crib, he leaned over and tapped his paper on the crib, I laughed and kicked up my heels but my sister began to cry, she was frightened. Mother snatched her from the crib and said, “You may tease Jeanette all you want to, but you are not going to tease this baby. When we were about seven month’s old, Mother had a lady from across the street come and take care of her little brood while she went with Father to a theater, he was the Leader of the Orchestra and had some complementary tickets to take a partner with him.

Later when they came home, Mother picked the baby up to put some drops in her ears, as she suffered with earache a good deal; she smiled at them and seemed so much better. In those days Mother’s fed their babies at the breast. Mother had a bed to herself, plus a baby on each side of her. After nursing Jeanevery and she had gone to sleep, she turned over and fed me. She was very tired and fell off to sleep, when she woke up in the morning she turned over to the little one and found she had died in her sleep.

It must have been a terrible shock for Mother, of course I cannot remember anything about that, but have been told what happened.

Esther and I used to have a small bed to ourselves. One evening Mother again went with Father to a theater and before she left I begged her to leave the lamp in our room, as we children were alone this night, the boys in the kitchen and we in our room. I was in bed before Esther and she turned the light way down, I begged her to turn it up just a little, but she would not, so I did something I had never thought of doing before, I lay awake until she fell asleep and then I crawled out of bed and turned the light up just a little and went back to bed and to sleep.

Later in the evening, Mother got uneasy and wanted to come back home. Uncle Enoch Bowles, a brother-in-law of Mother’s, offered to come up and see how we were. Everyone was asleep. He came into our bedroom; there was quite a breeze which caused the light to flare up and the curtains on the window to blow right over the lamp. He took the lamp out of our bedroom and blew out the light, we did not hear anything. He returned to the theater and told her everything was alright and she need not worry. I do not know when I was first told of it, but it surely was lucky that Mother got worried about us.

Another little experience that I never forgot, I was the last one to wake up that morning and when I opened my eyes, I head some lovely music, there stood my eldest brother Lon, playing the base fiddle and singing, “Wake up little sister, the morning is bright, the birds are all singing to welcome the light, the buds are all opening the dew drops fall. If you shake but a branch there falls quite a shower.” I was thrilled through and through, it seemed almost heavenly to wake up under such a condition.

I remember when I was quite a youngster Mother had some company, two ladies visiting her for an hour or two, and kids like I tried to show off, running into the house through the east door and on into two more rooms then back into the kitchen and out of the west door, then I would run around the house to the east door and into the kitchen again, and continue to show off. As I came out from the other rooms I must have stumbled and hit my head on the doorknob, I went spinning around the room and fell on the hearth and fainted. One of the ladies picked me up in her arms; they were all frightened for I was as white as a sheet. I believe that is the only time I ever fainted in my life. What kids won’t do to show off. I remember when I was a kid about four years old; I had been staying at the home of my Grandmother Webb (Esther Olpin) for a few days. They asked me if I would go home for a while and when there I found Mother sick in bed, someone picked up a little bundle and put on my lap, all I could see was some brown hair and I tried to push it off my lap I thought it was a dog they had given me, so they hurriedly took it away from me, but first they unwrapped its head and I found I had a lovely little sister; young though I was, I never forgot it.

When I was quite young, Mother handed me a small bucket and told me to go across the road to a creek, and bring back some drinking water for lunch. I had to cross the railroad track to get there; it was in the middle of the road. I got the water and in some way my foot got under the rail, and try as much as I could, I could not release it. Then I heard the rumble of the train. I could not see it as there was a curve just two blocks east of me. I gave a scream, Mother happened to be in the yard gathering chips to start a fire in the stove. She said afterwards that she could not remember whether she jumped over the fence or climbed through the poles. She reached me, gave my leg a bang and got me free, caught me up in her arms and away from danger. To this day, I can just see that old train coming around the bend. If Mother had not been near, I do not think they would have had time to stop it. It was certainly a narrow escape for me.

One day when I was rather young I was going down to school. I remember instead of walking I was skipping, and even as I left the house I began some serious thinking. I skipped over the middle of the rail road track (It was much too early for the train). I was thinking “Who am I?”, “Where did I come from?”, “When will I go back home?” and as I tried to fathom those things out, the most beautiful spirit came over me. Never before had I felt such a wonderful spirit. I was still skipping; it almost seemed as if I could go right off the ground, as if something precious was near me. Then all of the sudden I was at the school house gate, and I was sorry. I wanted to think things out. I did not want to join with the other children, but if I had not stopped there I might have gone on to Main Street, and even down to the depot, two blocks further on. Oh, how I wanted to finish that experience.

When I greeted my school mates it was such a different feeling, as if I had been let down or something.

A few days later while on my way to school I tried to get back that little spirit, but it was in vain, at least through all these days and years I have had the memory of what took place. I have surely felt my guardian angel near me.

In later years, a Patriarch gave me a blessing and said “Thy Guardian Angel has watched over you and kept you from evil of any kind.” It surely must have been a Guardian Angel that was with me that day.

Although there was almost three years between my sister, Esther (I called her Essie). I always felt that wherever she went I should go. One evening we went up to Shroder’s to visit Addie, and to serenade some places. There may have been others with us that evening.

That evening the older girls of the family were entertaining some guests and they called for Esther to come in and sing for them. She went in as big as can be and played to her own accompaniment. I followed her to the door, as I wanted to hear her sing. Someone saw me standing near the door and asked me to come in. those older girls and Richard always made a fuss over me, so I went in and stood by the organ. Esther was accompanying herself on the organ. In one verse she forgot some of the words and improvised some, I spoke right up and said “Oh, that isn’t right,” was my sister mad. She would have liked to strangle me, but the company thought it was the cutest thing and got quite a bang out of it. I kept out of her reach and when we went home I ran ahead of her. When we reached home, Mother took my side. Esther said I could not sleep with her, and again Mother was on my side, so Esther rolled up a blanket and put it between us. She did not want me to touch her. We can laugh about it now, but then it was a terrible sin. The older members of the Shroder family all liked me and their brother Richard made quite a fuss of me. I called him my boyfriend. Whenever he came to our house he would take me on his knee and talk to me, and sometimes he would bring me some candy. One day he came in and I crawled under the table, he coaxed me to come out, said that he had something to tell me. He said he was going on a mission and had come to say goodbye to the family. Then he had another message for me, the Sisters and others were going to put on a Theater and they wanted me to take part in the show. Later the show was produced and my cousin, Will Sparks (William Lamont Sparks), and I were in it.

All I had to do was to ride across the stage, on Mr. D.K. Brown’s back and say “Get up Horsey. I know they could hear me clear down to the door. I think it was a Civil War Picture and we all sat on the floor in a circle for lunch, they passed dry bread in small pieces and Will and me had to eat most of it; the trouble was the older folks passed their share to Will and me, so we had to do most of the eating, generous people.

Another time I was in a play representing a boy, my name was Charley, when the curtain came up I was sitting on the floor in the front of the stage playing with some toys. I imagine I may have stretched my arms and maybe yawned a bit, and said “I am so sleepy,” and lay over on my toys and went to sleep. Soon some gypsy’s came in and took me away. My parent came in and when they found I was gone they went all around, in and out behind the room calling Charley, Charley. I felt so bad for them that I almost spoilt the show, for when I heard them calling Charley, Charley I started to run back on the stage. I felt so sorry for them. Someone caught me in time and saved the show.

One day my father took me with him down to band practice with him, I liked to listen to the music, all the men made a big fuss over me. One of the men took hold of my hand and tried to lift me on his knee, I cried out in pain, he had pulled my arm out of joint. Perhaps some of them could have put it back into place but I would not let them touch it, it was so painful. One of them wrapped a handkerchief around it and I went home with Father.

A day or two after, I asked Mother if I would look at the pictures in the Bible; that was something very precious and was kept high on a shelf. She brought it to me and laid it on the floor in front of me, and I started turning the leaves. It was a large book for a youngster like me. While turning the leaves I reached too far and my bone sprang back into place. I ran and told Mother what had happened, I was well again.

Before I started school, I had learned the Primer all by heart. Father liked to show me off when company was here; I remember one instance, a man, I believe he was an Ostler, in talking to him, Father told him how I could read. I took the Primer to him and he chose the story, he showed me the picture so I would know what story it was, then I would tell it back to him word by word. Father was quite pleased that I could do that, whether it was first, last or any part of the book.

When I was in the second grade in school, my teacher advanced me to the third grade for the next year, I went home so happy and told Mother about it, then Esther spoke up and said, oh no you are not going to, they have just changed books and I have seen them and they are too hard to read, she said she was going to remain in the third grade and that I would have to stay in the second grade, Mother agreed with her so I had to take the second grade over again. While I was going to the South School, I had to take part in a play, Lillie Lowe, daughter of a famous actress, was my sister and we were children of the streets. I was a boot black. My folks borrowed some boy’s clothes for me to wear, from a neighbor who had a boy my size, his Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes, while Lillie’s mother put ragged clothes on her and tore wholes in her stockings, you can imagine how I felt, I hated to go on, but young as I was it taught me a lesson I never forgot.

One day Mother came home with a new pair of shoes for me, regular stogies; when Esther saw them she nearly took a fit. She said to mother, how could you buy such shoes for her? I was always grateful for things my parents gave me so, though they were a bit heavy, I always wore them.

Soon after this a dancing Professor came to Nephi to start a dancing school. He also gave a matinee for the younger children, Father played for him so I trailed along with Esther to the Matinee. I was about the youngest there and the last in the line. One of the dances we learned was the Sicilians. The Professor always wore dancing Pumos for dancing. For quite a while we had stood in a long line to learn the steps, one day he decided to show us how we could dance, he decided to show us and to my surprise the Professor took me for his partner, little me, how I tried to dance those steps and keep up with him and those poor shoes clanked all the time. Afterwards he said to Dad, “Mr. Sperry how can you let your little girl wear such heavy shoes?” I can laugh at it now, but they were heavy on the feet.

When I was eight years old I read my first novel, “Dora Thorne”. Esther borrowed the book and she had said I could not read it, when she talked to me like that, so bossy, Mother took my part, and she said “oh yes if you want to.” Mother did not like to see her so bossy with me. Of course I thought it was all true and how I wished that someday I might go and see those lovely homes and gardens. The story was about a girl, a gatekeeper’s daughter, whose parents took care of the lovely home and garden for a family. The Gatekeeper had a lovely daughter, Dora Thorne, it was said her lips were as red as the strawberries she picked. The young heir of the family came there from college to open up the windows and take down the shutters for the lovely home and have it all ready for his parents. In the two weeks while waiting for them to come he fell desperately in love with Dora, naturally it was a great shock to the parents. They shut up the home and hurried him off to a foreign land. At the very end of the book he married her after all. Kids like me thought it all true and wished that someday I might have the opportunity for visiting some of those homes and gardens.

I was baptized when eight years old, Esther and Lizette Littley went down with me where the baptism was performed in a creek, I believe near an old saw mill. Afterwards as we were walking home I had to be so careful of what I said, the least little word or sentence and they would say: there is the first blemish on her clean slate. They got me quite worried.

[1] an acute febrile disease associated with intense edematous local inflammation of the skin and subcutaneous tissues caused by a hemolytic streptococcus


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