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McDonald Tales | MT17 | 1884 Life with William and Charlotte

Updated on January 18, 2016

May in the Ozarks valley

A yellow flowering bush
A yellow flowering bush

‘Willing Workers’ Sunday School Class formed

By the late spring of 1884, some of the young married couples at the Methodist Church had created a new Sunday School class that not only met on Sunday, but had a monthly social gathering and a commitment to do community service projects. They called the class the ‘Willing Workers.’ By mid-summer, none of the couples yet had any children, but that didn’t mean they weren’t thinking about it. The most recent additions had been Vic and Kate Campbell, who had just gotten married.

They joined Grant and Lenore Ward, Earl and Naomi Rhodes, Jacob and Irene Carver, and William and Charlotte McDonald as originating members of the group. They were spread out across the valley, which made the monthly social gatherings especially interesting, as they usually gathered at one of the homes of class members. They elected officers and had a program and a projects committee to plan and direct their activities. Reverend Boyd was very supportive of this class as was Sunday School Superintendant Silas Adams. They understood that the cohesion developed during group activities would most likely keep them involved in all church-related matters.

There was only about a five-year age spread among the individuals making up the five couples, so they all knew each other fairly well from regular church attendance over the years. Lenore was the only exception to this, but she had fit right in when Grant and brought her home to Oak Springs as his bride, a couple of years prior. From time to time they talked about the two or three other couples in the community who were about the same age as they were but were not nearly as active in the church as they were. They decided that, for now, five couples made a fine class. They could always invite others to join later if it seemed appropriate.

She served chocolate cake

Chocolate cake
Chocolate cake

William and Charlotte hosted the ‘Willing Workers’ group in May 1884

The monthly social meeting of the ‘Willing Workers’ Sunday School Class was held at the farm home of William and Charlotte McDonald in the east valley. All five couples were able to attend, including Vic and Kate, even though they had not yet had their wedding. They had been regular participants since Vic had returned to Oak Springs and the wedding date in June had been set.

Earl had been elected President of the group, and conducted a short business meeting to talk about their upcoming programs and projects. Irene was the recording secretary. An early agenda item for each meeting was to confirm the hosts for upcoming monthly gatherings. Grant reported on the community projects they had been considering, and there was a lively discussion about aspects of the project that each person, and couple, felt was good and what problems they might encounter. Following the business meeting, they had decided this was an evening for playing card games. William found it interesting to see which couples wanted to be partners in the games and which preferred to play against their spouse. All the details were worked out, and the card games they played seemed to please everyone by the end of the evening.

Chocolate cake and ice cream were the refreshments for the evening. Charlotte was proud of her chocolate cake recipe that had won ribbons at each of the recent annual August fairs. No one was surprised that it was what she served. They were all delighted that they were able to enjoy the cake and ice cream together. The weather had cooperated, so each of the couples were able to enjoy a moonlight ride home as well as the late afternoon ride through the country side earlier.

Before the spring arrived

They lived on an isolated farm
They lived on an isolated farm

Life was not all cream and roses for William and Charlotte

Earlier in the year, William and Charlotte had experienced the positive feelings of her becoming pregnant and beginning to look forward to having their first child together. Before they had even had a chance to share their happiness with anyone other than the parents, however, Charlotte experienced a miscarriage and lost the potential child about the time spring was to arrive. Being isolated in the country, no one else ever learned of it, aside from the parents. It was at this time that they learned from Grace, Charlotte’s mother, that she had also experienced more than one miscarriage early in their married life, as well. Grace added that being able to eventually have her two daughters had seemed like a miracle to her when they each arrived.

During these discussions, it was also brought up on William’s side of the family that his paternal grandmother that experienced similar difficulties. This had accounted for the wide difference in the age of William’s father, Daniel, and his older brother, Harry. It was totally unknown, of course, if there could possibly be any relationship. However, knowing similar experiences had already occurred, on both sides of the family, helped prepare William and Charlotte for any such problems they might face in the future. They hoped for the best, but prepared themselves for the worst.

Otherwise, life on the farm had become fairly routine for both William and Charlotte. Charlotte had enjoyed making her own home for her husband and herself. She found working in the garden to be very satisfying and fulfilling. She loved being able to continue to interact regularly with both her mother and younger sister, nearby. Sometimes she visited them; sometimes they visited her. When William needed her to help with his work, she was happy to be able to do so, and felt as though she did it well. William continued to work closely with his parents on the combined farming operations, not just on his own place, although that was his priority, they all agreed. Having extra help, as needed, kept the burden of being a very young farmer tolerable, William realized. He knew he was a very fortunate young man with both a successful occupation and a fine wife.

Note from Author

With MT17 we focus on William McDonald and Charlotte Crane, personally and individually. In this particular episode, I have drawn on my own parents’ experiences with their young married couples Sunday School group, in the early 20th century, also called the ‘Willing Workers’ based my mother’s diary entries and my earliest recollections. Some details of McDonald Tales episodes have been told in other short story collection such as, “American Centennial at the Homeplace: The Founding (1833-1876)” but here we are seeing the activity through the eyes of Jane, Daniel, and William McDonald, along with new material and insights. The “Kings of Oak Springs” and Life in Oak Springs and more” series have made reference to some of the material here from a different point of view. In this series of stories we learn new behind-the-scene insights about this family. These Tales are a part of “The Homeplace Saga” series of stories.

The earlier episodes of the King Family series have now been compiled into two eBooks, titled: "The Kings of Oak Springs,” Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (20 episodes each). See the link, below, to get yours.

“The Homeplace Saga” family saga, historical fiction stories are the creation of the author, William Leverne Smith, also known as “Dr. Bill.”

Video Book Trailer

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It was all about community, wasn't it? Social interaction was the lifeblood of a young community....you always capture it perfectly, Bill.

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      Author

      William Leverne Smith 15 months ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you. Small rural communities were, are, very distinctive, for sure! ;-)

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 15 months ago from The Caribbean

      You portray a community in which everyone is connected, productive and growing. Add to the pleasant gatherings the servings of chocolate and ice cream and life could not be better.

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      Author

      William Leverne Smith 15 months ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you for your comment, Dora! Each one is appreciated!! ;-)

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 15 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a lovely description of a community build on friendship and positive values. I must admit that I love the thought of chocolate cake and ice cream, too!

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      Author

      William Leverne Smith 15 months ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you for your visit and your comment, Alicia. Wish I could serve you some chocolate cake and ice cream right now!! ;-)

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 15 months ago from Central Florida

      Bill, I love this episode that brings the young couples to the forefront. They are next in line to pioneer the way for upcoming generations. It'll be fun to watch them grow.

      I feel for Charlotte. I know how devastated she and William must have been by the loss of their first child. I don't know which would be more difficult to bear: losing a child before it takes its first breath, or suffering the loss once it entered this world. There probably isn't really a difference. You love your child from the moment you discover there's a life inside.

      I know Charlotte and William's genes are predisposed to miscarriage, but there's hope. One of my cousins had two miscarriages, each before the birth of her two children. Her doctor told her to stop trying to get pregnant after her second child or she (my cousin) may not make it. Apparently, her hips are too close together to successfully carry a child. There's nothing that can be done about that - it is what it is. A baby needs room to grow. But she did have two children who are now adults, very successful, and have children of their own. So, there's always hope!

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      Author

      William Leverne Smith 15 months ago from Hollister, MO

      Wonderful comments, Sha. Thank you, so much. Yes, loss of a child hurts forever, no matter the circumstances. We had one die on Christmas morning in her third day on earth. That was nearly 50 years ago, but I still remember her clearly...

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 15 months ago from Oklahoma

      Interesting read.

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      Author

      William Leverne Smith 15 months ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you, Larry, for both your visit and your comment! ;-)

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