Childhood Memories In The Old West

by Maud Lillian (Frost) Parsons

as told to and written by her daughter, Marion (Parsons) Ross.


Marion (Parsons) (Becker) Ross was the daughter of Maud Lillian (Frost) Parsons and Robert Parsons. Maud was the oldest of nine children born to Simpson Paine Frost and Ann Margaret (Nichol) Frost. The original manuscript of these stories is in the possession of Marion's daughter, Mary Alice (Becker) Syddall, Silt ,Colorado. The stories appear on the Ray Parsons' web site at .....................................Ray Parsons, a grandson of Maud Lillian (Frost) Parsons, email address = (2004)

"My mother, Maud Parsons made her home with me, the last eleven years of her life. During this time, she told me stories of her childhood, especially the things that frightened her. Mother lived to be eighty-seven years old. Her mind was clear and active, she had good eyesight and enjoyed reading, her hearing was good and she was able to get around and do things for herself. She had cancer, she died after her third cancer operation, on 22 March 1958. She told me her stories over and over again, so I am writing them here as though she was telling them. The first two stories happened when she was a baby and before she was born, they are repeated here as they were told to her, by her Mother Maggie.'

Marion Ross (1980)

Chapter 1 - Ann Margaret Nichol

Ann Margaret Nichol was the eighth child of Dr. Thomas and Sarah Finley Patterson Nichol. Her parents having lost four little ones, before she was born. Her birthday was the 23rd day of October 1843. Her Father, always called her Margaret, however she was called "Maggie" by most of the family.

Maggie had one sister, Susan and two brothers, John R and David Finley Nichol who were older than herself, and two other brothers, Matthew B and George Clark Nichol and one other sister Mary P who was always called "Molly" who was younger than herself. Susan had helped her Father for several years, going with him as his nurse, whenever he was called to set broken arms or legs or to deliver babies or to attend injuries of all kinds. Susan went any time Dr. Nichol thought that he might need help.

Susan married Daniel M. Leavitt and moved to a farm near Barrett, Kansas. The Dr. tried to get along without an aide for a time, but missed Susan's help terribly, so he asked Margaret to go with him. Maggie was in her last year of high school, so she didn't have much time she could give to her Father. She tried to go with him when ever she could, and she liked the work. Whenever school was out, she gave most of her time to helping Dr Nichol. They lived on a small farm just outside of Oskaloosa, Iowa. They had fruit trees, a cow, chickens, pigs and a big vegetable garden and a horse and buggy. There was always fruits and vegetables to can, butter to churn and bread to bake.

After graduating from high school, Margaret took the Mahaska County School Teaching Examination and passed with high marks, receiving a Lifetime School Teacher's Certificate. However Maggie's Mother wasn't feeling very well that fall. Maggie felt that both of her parents needed her so she didn't even apply for a school that year. The next year at the last minute, she decided to try teaching. She applied for a school near her home, however she soon learned that five other teachers had applied for the same school, all ahead of her. Again she stayed home and helped her parents.

Time passed and Maggie became restless, so she applied for a school near her sister Susan's home in Kansas. She was accepted immediately as the teacher for the four lower grades, in a two room schoolhouse. They wanted a man teacher for the four higher grades. Margaret arrived at her sister's home, just three days before school started. Susan was glad to see her, but was worried about her taking this school. Daniel Leavitt, Susan's Husband, said "There are a wild bunch of boys around here. They don't go to school to learn they just go to heckle the teacher. They ran three men teachers off last year. I worry about your safety in the same building with that bunch.

School day came and Margaret went to school. At the right time she went out front and rang the school bell loud and clear. Then twenty-three children marched into her room. They were all clean and polite, each child saying "Good morning teacher." as they passed by her and took a seat. Out in the yard a cry started, seven big boys were standing in a group all yelling we've got a one-eyed monster a one-eyed monster. Who wants a one-eyed monster?" The door opened and a man stepped out onto the little porch, he was tall and slender, he had a heavy head of chestnut brown hair, or was it auburn? In the sunshine it looked dark red and his eyes were brown. His voice was very pleasant as he called to the boys. "Good morning, I see you all feel like singing this morning, that is fine, a wonderful way to start the day. Now lets all come inside and get acquainted". The boys mumbled a little among themselves, then they all went into the building and took seats.

When all was quiet, the teacher began to talk. "In this old world of ours, sometimes things just happen and sometimes we make them happen. When I was a boy I lived in Tennessee. One bright sunny morning, My Mother told me to go pick blackberries. I was twelve years old then, there was a lot of things that I wanted to do other than to pick blackberries. I felt angry and rebellious, but she handed me a pan and told me she wanted me to bring it back full. Well, I took the pan and slammed out the door and went to the blackberry patch, I was MAD!" At this time the teacher stopped and turned to the blackboard and wrote --- ANGER REBELLION--- then he continued to talk, "Now I think blackberries have the longest vines, the most prickly brambles and the largest, hardest, sharpest thorns of any plant I know about. I grabbed a handful of briers and pulled them back so that I could get at a dozen nice large juicy berries. I was angry and because I was angry I was also careless. I had worked in the blackberries many times. I knew how to hold those briers, but this time I was careless, I let go of the briers and they swished right back into my face. One sharp hard thorn came into my eye and tore it open.

"I ran to the house. My father took me to a doctor. This doctor sent us to another doctor. Soon we had seen five doctors in five different towns., but none of them could save my eye. I had to have it removed and now I wear an artificial eye, all because I was careless." He turned and wrote the word --- CARELESS--- on the board,'

"Now my name is Frost, I have three brothers, Tom, John and Andrew. In our home town there was a strange thing, no one ever called any of my brothers or myself by our real names, they all called us Jack. All four of us were called "Jack Frost", so you see not being called by my right name doesn't bother me a bit."

"Our school year is very short and we have a lot to learn. This may be the only chance some of you will have, to go to school. Perhaps you don't think school is important. Do you want to be called an ignorant dummy? If you really are one, it hurts to be called one. All of you children live on farms, so I want to teach you things you should know, to help you make your farms successful. I want to show you how to plan to build a barn. How much will it cost? How much lumber will you need? How much roofing material, how much paint to paint your barn, how many and what kind of nails you will need. You will have to know arithmetic, to figure out all of these problems. Do any of you know how much seed it takes to plant an acre of ground? These are some of the things we will study about this winter.

One of the boys raised his hand, then said "Teacher there are two other boys that belong in this class, but they can't come to school. The Wilson Brothers have to help there Paw build his barn." The teacher said, "Well, that is interesting. How many of you could bring a hammer and come to the Wilson's farm at 9:00 O'clock Saturday morning?" The teacher explained, "If we all work about three hours, we can help the Wilson's get their barn built and I can show you how to do many things. It is a lot easier to show you than it is to tell you or try to draw it on the blackboard. If you come to help Saturday, it will count as a school credit." Well, Saturday morning all seven boys and three of their Fathers showed up at the Wilson's farm. The Fathers demanding to know why the boys were expected to do school work on Saturday, the teacher talked them all into staying and helping to build the barn. He showed them many little short-cuts that helped, also many things about building that Mr. Wilson did not know. The Wilson's barn turned out to be the nicest barn around, and the whole neighborhood helped in the building of it. Their next project was to re-roof the widow Hick's house. From then on the boys and their Fathers brought their farm problems to the teacher, who cheerfully helped them all. This teacher didn't have any trouble with bad boys or dirty pranks.

Maggie Nichol and Simpson Frost worked together all of the school year, both were liked very much. At the close of the school year the two teachers decided to get married. School was out on the 22nd of March, on the 25th of March 1870 Simpson Paine Frost married Ann Margaret Nichol at the home of Susan Leavitt near Barrett, Kansas.

Simpson P. Frost had a horse and buggy and for their wedding trip, they drove to Oskaloosa, Iowa. Maggie wanted her new Husband to meet her Father and Mother and her Bothers and Sister. They arrived at the Nichol farm very late one Saturday night, in a driving rain, they were soaked to the skin and very tired and muddy. Simp took care of the horse and they dropped into bed. In the morning, Sunday, Dr. Nichol found Simpson out on the back stoop cleaning his boots, getting them ready to polish, the old Doctor was horrified, "You can't clean boots on the Sabbath at my house." he stormed. "Well," replied Simp "if I can't clean boots on the Sabbath, I sure can't go to Church." "But cleaning boots is a Saturday job, never to be left to Sunday morning." stormed the Doctor. "Well "Doctor, I suppose if a man broke his leg, you would refuse to set the bone and apply a splint, if it were on a Sunday. You would just tell him to wait until Monday." "No such thing. Setting a man's broken leg on the Sabbath would not be working. It would be an act of mercy. Not the same thing at all, not at all." said the Doctor. "Well Doctor.." asked Simp, "can I take a nice long nap, while the family goes to Church? Would that be allowed in your house?" Now the fat was in the fire! From then on, the good Doctor and his Son-in-law never did get along.

Much later, Dr. Nichol told Margaret that he was very disappointed in her marriage. "You married a man from an other Church (the Nichol's were all Presbyterians and Simpson Frost was a Seventh Day Baptist) and you married a man who smokes and drinks." he said. "But Father, I didn't know that he smoked or drank before we were married. He never used tobacco or drank liquor around the school and I truly didn't know he liked a very small drink before his evening meal. He says that one small drink, is a tradition in his family. They consider it to be a mark of a gentleman, and he won't give it up." Margaret was in tears, as she explained these things to her Father. "Well," said the Doctor, "You married him, so now you have to make the best of it. But I think you could have done better. I will say the man is polite and is a smooth talker, I can see how you could fall for him."

Early Monday morning, the young people started back to Kansas.

Chapter 2 - Grasshoppers

Simpson Paine and Ann Margaret Frost's first baby was a little girl. Born just after midnight on a cold January night, they named her Maud Lillian, her birthday was the 24th of January 1871, on the farm near Barrett, Marshall County, Kansas

It was the first of July and Margaret was pleased with her garden. She was picking radishes, lettuce and onions, all of her garden looked good. The fields were green and the crop looked promising. Then suddenly a great cloud came over the sun and everything became dark. Simp came running in from the field yelling, "It's grasshoppers millions of them, eating everything. Throw a few--things together, we have to leave." He soon had the team hitched up to the wagon, he grabbed quilts and tied them over the horses, trying to cover every inch of flesh, for the grasshoppers were eating every blade of grass and every green thing in the fields and in Maggie's lovely garden, and now they were even trying to eat the flesh off-of the horses and the cow. The cow was covered as well as possible and tied with a rope to the back of the wagon. They had to cover themselves and the baby with quilts and blankets. Quickly they drove away from their home, trying to go faster than the grasshoppers. They drove to Simpson's brother Tom's house in Iowa, near Centerville. The grasshoppers had turned south and did not bother the farms in Iowa.

Simp and Maggie stayed with Tom and Molly until the next spring. Simp was restless and wanted to get back to the farm in Kansas, but Maggie was expecting another baby and was afraid to make the trip. Maggie's baby was born on the 15th of March, 1872. It was a big strong baby boy, they named him Robert Thomas, after Simp's Father Robert Frost and Maggie's Father Thomas Nichol, but they always called their Son Bert. When Bert was three weeks old, they started the trip back to Kansas.. So it was the grasshoppers that caused Bert to be born in Iowa and Maud, Sade and Edith were born in Kansas.

Chapter 3 - Shadows

One of my earliest memories was the day of the 22nd of March 1874. Paw had taken the three of us, Bert Sarah and myself, to spend the day with someone strange. it was supper time and we were going home. Paw was carrying Sade, Bert and I were walking. Paw was walking fast so we had to run to keep up with him, our shadows were out in front of us. The further we went, the longer our shadows became. I had never noticed my shadow before, but all our shadows, stretched out in front of us. ','le couldn't catch up with them or get ahead of them. The shadows just grew taller and taller all the way home. When we got home Mother was in bed and we had a new baby, it was another girl, they named her Edith. I asked Paw about.shadows, but he was busy getting supper, he said, "I will tell you about shadows some other time."

Soon after that we moved to Iowa,. We were living near Uncle Tom's place when my Sister May was born on the 23rd of December 1875, Just one month before I was five years old. Mother was homesick, so we moved to Oskaloosa, so we kids could get to know our Grandma and Grandpa Nichol and Aunts and Uncles and lots of cousins. It was a lot of fun belonging to a big family.