Harriet Kirk Abbott's Memory of Her Mother, Hannah Townsend Kirk

written by Harriet Kirk Abbott


My mother was the daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Townsend. When she was four years of age her mother died, leaving her with two older brothers -- William, aged eight, and James, aged six. She went to live with her grandmother -- her mother's mother. This is the one we have heard Uncle James Townsend speak of as the "Widow Speakman" who married a Wilson. She had three children by her first husband -- Willis, James and Elizabeth Speakman. Upon being left a widow, she married Samuel Wilson, and had another son -- Joseph Wilson, the same being Arthur Wilson's grandfather.

After my mother went to live with her grandmother, Cousin Joseph Wilson lost his wife and brought his two sons, Theodore and William, home to his mother.

I remember hearing my mother tell how she used to have to light her grandmother's pipe; and how she knit stockings and made clothes for those boys, besides making her own. She would make a dress for herself in one evening. There were no furbelows on it. Sewing up the two breadths in straight seams, making a plain waist; gathering each at the waist line, and uniting them with a band at the belt! No time for any extras for this over-busy young girl, who was never strong! (How could she be!)

At nineteen she married Timothy Kirk, a widower who had one daughter of twelve years of age.

At first I think the grandmother went to live with her; but later she left, and the daughter came home to stay. I have heard mother tell how companionable the step-daughter, Elizabeth, was, and what a faithful helper through the years when the eight babies came and were growing out of their clothes so fast. Together they worked like two sisters -- spinning and weaving flannel or linen during the day-time, and knitting and sewing at night until 12 or 1 o'clock, by the dim candle light.

Of course there was much to do besides making cloth and clothes, too. I remember the candle-making and dipping. And there was the slaughtering times, with all the attendant care of preserving the meat -- trying out lard, making sausage and head cheese, smoking and frying beef; and the cleaning-up times afterward. There was harvest time with its big dinners to cook, and the problem of stowing away the men at nights; and coloring and dyeing of linens; cheese and butter making; preparing and drying apples and pumpkins, etc., etc.

Apple cuttings were the social events of the year. The neighbors would gather together in the evenings, by invitation, to visit, and cut and pare apples for drying.

Mother was never strong, though always so over-burdened. Her mother having died with consumption, for fourteen years she was supposed to have been suffering from the same ravaging disease. She died before she was quite fifty.

The eight children were Wilson, Eliza Ellen, Harriet, Louisa, Salathial, Thomas, Esther, and Hannah Jane, all living to manhood and womanhood except Thomas who died in infancy.

The home where most of the family life was spent was in Randolf county, Indiana. Winchester was the county seat and where we did the bulk of our trading, though there was a little town called Huntsville about four miles from us where we did some. And then in another direction was the little Friends meeting house where we attended regularly twice a week. It was called Poplar Run monthly meeting.

In those days people didn't talk so much about their religious experiences, yet mother was always interested in her children's welfare spiritually. I remember in a letter to her oldest son (Wilson) when he was attending boarding school at Richmond Indiana (now Earlham College), she said, "I hope thee is learning in the school of Christ, as well as interested in thy daily studies." And well do I recall how her sweet singing of the grand old hymns used to help me. When I was a child it seems to me I suffered an unusual amount of pain from various causes; and when at such times the pain would become almost unendurable, Mother would rock my cradle with her foot while her hands were busy, and sing "How Firm a Foundation." It seemed to me I could bear any amount of suffering, if she sang that hymn to me in her sweet musical voice.

When I was sixteen, we moved to Iowa -- to West Branch, where mother had the privilege of living for awhile among her brothers and sisters, from whom she had been separated most of her life. Uncle William and Uncle James were there when we came, and soon Aunt Elizabeth Barrington and Uncle Thomas and Aunt Mary (the two latter neither married at that time) arrived from Ohio.

The Abbotts (Samuel Abbott's family) were our near neighbors in the new home, and their boys, Calvin, Abijah and John, went to school with the seven of us children to Joel Bean -- who was the one person who influenced our lives for good more than any other outside of home.

In those precious days, ties of friendship were formed which grew stronger with the passing years. When I was twenty-four I was married to Calvin, and later Cousin Ruth Barrington married Abijah. Also her brother George married Sarah Pearson, a cousin of Calvin's who made her home with the Abbotts after her mother's death (and these are John Barrington's parents).

About two years after we were married, mother died. It was at Quarterly meeting time, and most of her kindred were over at Springdale when the death angel called for her; but her release was sweet, tho a cloud covered the entrance to the heavenly portal.

Louisa who was ill at the same time as her mother, was so desirous of going first. And she did precede her by a few months, as she died May 9th, 1863, and mother, October 13th, 1864. Timothy Kirk, my father died August 29th, 1867, and Brother Salathiel, November of the same year. Esther died August 10th, 1869.

The fear of death was removed from me when Brother Salathiel went. He had seemed to us to have had a sinking spell; but recovering he said, "Oh, it is worth a dozen worlds to feel as I did then. I wouldn't want to get well now if I could." He seemed to have been given a glimpse of the Beyond.

And sister Jennie's last moments were so assuring of the "Better further On." When she rallied from one of her sinking spells, she said, "Oh why must I come back? It seemed as if Jesus just came and lifted me right up in His arms."