Young Hattie Brown
Born April 11, 1884, Harriet Lydia Brown was the 6th child born to Thomas B Brown and Eliza Brown White. Each of her parents had been married previously so she was actually the 17th child born into the family. At the time of their marriage, widowed Eliza became the plural wife of Thomas and lived in a polygamous marriage until the death of his first wife, Jane White, who was actually the sister of Eliza’s first husband, John White.
Got all that? Don’t worry – hopefully the confusion will clear up in future posts. At this point it’s enough to know that Harriet was born into a large pioneer family, and both of her parents had arrived in Utah from England – Thomas in September, 1855 and Eliza in October, 1863.
Harriet was born at home, in the first brick home in North Ogden and grew up working with her parents and siblings both inside the house and outside on the farm. The family farm was made up of many apple, peach and plum trees as well as a large patch of raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries, and black and red currants. Eliza, Harriet’s mother, dried and sold lots of fruit to add to the family income. Harriet spent countless hours peeling and quartering peaches and apples and spreading them out on the shed roofs or homemade scaffolds to dry. In addition, she picked and cleaned gooseberries and currants for making jam and jelly and helped bottle lots of fruit for winter use.
Much of the raspberry crop was sold to a man who took them to Ogden and liked them fresh every morning. The usual price was 50 cents for a case of 16 cups, but occasionally they could get as much as 75 or 80 cents a case. The income from the fruit was often spent on clothing for Hattie and her siblings, and she always looked forward to a new dress for Christmas.
From the time she was about eleven into her early teens, Harriet was responsible for milking four or five cows each morning and evening. On sub-zero mornings in winter, milking those cows before breakfast was no job for the faint-hearted or weak willed!
Hattie started school in the old adobe schoolhouse in North Ogden. She took her school work very seriously and really wanted to learn all she could. In the evenings after the outside chores were done and the supper dishes cleaned up she sat beside the coal stove and studied by the light of a coal lamp. She graduated from the eighth grade with honors just a few days before her father passed away.
As she grew older, Hattie went to do housework in the home of Edwin G. McGriff. She did housework including washing and cooking for wages of $1.25 a week plus her room and board. Mr. McGriff wanted to raise fruit on a commercial scale, so he hired a number of men to help with the business. Some of those men boarded at the McGriff home, and their meals and laundry were part of Hattie’s responsibilities. The wash water had to be carried from a distance and the clothing had to be washed by hand on a scrub board. The long-legged underwear worn by the working men was grimy with dirt and sweat and usually required extra tubbing and scrubbing. Hattie’s arms must have ached from that awful work!
In the days of her childhood, of course there were no movies, radio, or television to entertain Harriet and her friends, so they made their own fun and recreation. Summer holidays brought fun in races and other sports, followed by patriotic programs in which many of them took part. In winter time, sleigh riding was a popular activity, either on hand sleds, toboggans, or in bobsleighs. All over town on winter nights one could hear the jingle of sleigh bells and see young people sitting on straw in the bobsleighs, covered to the neck with quilts with hot bricks to keep their feet warm. I suppose those of us who have only sung “Jingle Bells” don’t really have any idea of the thrill of “dashing through the snow” while listening to the bells “jingle all the way.”
Hattie and her friends often attended a singing school on Thursday nights, which became a center for a lot of socializing and probably some flirting as well. In addition the young people had a lot of house parties at which the played games and sang together, and occasionally had a molasses taffy pull.