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It is a fortunate thing when an ancestor leaves behind their own life history. Such is the case with my maternal great-grandmother, Nora Presnell Farnworth. Over the next few months, I will share her self-written life story here for all to read. She was a strong and determined woman; she had many unexpected twists and turns in her life and faced them all with courage. I hope you enjoy learning more about her.

Life History of Nora Edith PRESNELL – FARNWORTH

Nora Farnworth holding a grandson

THEN COMES THE NIGHT . . . . . . . . . .

James Russell Lowell

I was born February 7th 1893, at Muscotah, Atchison, Kansas. I am the daughter of Daniel Foster Presnell and Ella Freeman Presnell. I was born in the old Preston house in town, were the folks were living that winter. They had Dr. Plummer, our old family Dr. to help mother at my birth.

I had 5 brothers and 3 sisters when I came along. Their names were:
Charles William Presnell, born 8 November 1878, at Muscotah, Kansas.
James Levi Presnell, born 15 November 1879, at Muscotah, Kansas.
Sarah Louisa Presnell, born 14 April 1881, at Muscotah, Kansas.
Winnie May Presnell, born 11 January 1884, at Muscotah, Kansas.
Daniel Elijah Presnell, born 26 January 1886, at Muscotah, Kansas.
David Edmond Presnell, born 19 September 1887, at Muscotah, Kansas.
Hyrum Lorenzo Presnell, born 24 August 1889, at Horton, Kansas.
Emily Elizabeth Presnell, born 13 November 1890, at Horton, Kansas.
Then me, born 7 February 1893, at Muscotah, Kansas.

Then these after I came along:

Lonnie Andrew Presnell, born 4 August 1895, at Muscotah, Kansas.
Bessie Gertrude Presnell, born 29 October 1897, at Muscotah, Kansas.
Julius Leroy Snow Presnell, born 14 July 1900, at Muscotah, Kansas.
Lester Ray Freeman Presnell, born 25 September 1902, at Muscotah, Kansas.
Floyd Elmer Presnell, born 1 December 1905, at Muscotah, Kansas.

About the first thing I can remember was the folks telling about my sister Sarah, who was holding me by the heating stove, and dropped me, striking my head against the stove which caused a concussion which formed an abscess on the back of my head. I still have the scar. They say I was about three weeks old then.

When I was three or four years old, my folks had bought an acreage about three miles west of town and there was an upstairs there. I’d gone upstairs and lay down went to sleep. Mother was out peeling apples to dry for winter. When I awoke, my tongue was sore and swelled clear out of my mouth, with a big blister on it. All I could was grunt and cry and mother was sure scared to see me that way. She went in the house and got some turpentine and swabbed my mouth and tongue with it, and the swelling went down gradually. She said a big spider had bitten me. There were sure lots of spiders everywhere. Big ones and small ones and all different colors.

Father built a house across the ravine from where we lived. It was over near a creek that ran along near the chicken house, and we children always played around there and in the woods. It was so lovely in the woods with wild flowers, ferns and tall trees and vines everywhere. It used to be quite a tropical climate there in those days, with lovely birds, squirrels, and small animals everywhere. The woods were our playground and oh! Such a lovely place to play. There was lots of snow in the winters, and we used to get our sleds and slide down the hill and play in the snow, but I was susceptible to throat trouble and had to be careful not to get wet or I’d get sick. I had tonsillitis a lot and sometimes my throat would swell so bad that I’d get a high fever and sometimes I’d get delirious and father would take me up I his arms and carry me around and show me things on the walls and out the windows, until I’d settle down again.

Father used to call me “noodle”, I don’t know why, but he was always nice to us kids. My brother Lonnie was just two years younger than I, and we sure used to play together, as we grew older, we were such good companions. I don’t remember when he was born, but I do remember when Bessie was born. Father sent us all up stairs to bed, and Dr. came and after a while we heard a baby crying. We all tried to look down through the cracks in the floor, but we couldn’t see anything. Father soon came up and told us we had a new baby sister. She was such a little thing, with white hair and big blue eyes. We all liked to hold her.

Our house was surrounded with big trees and flowering bushes, and we always knew where the first spring flowers grew. The house was not far from the barn and other buildings, mother raised lots of chickens and we’d all help gather the eggs. Mother sold lots of eggs in town for 5 cents a dozen and she bought a lot of groceries with eggs, too.

There were all kinds of wild fruit trees everywhere, wild Crabapples, wild Cherries, Mulberries, Plums, Persimmons, Red haws, wild berries everywhere, Raspberries, Gooseberries, Blackberries, and Strawberries.

Wild Grapes grew everywhere and would vine up in the trees. There were all kinds of nut trees, Walnuts, Hickory nuts, Hazelnuts, and big Acorns that were sure good to eat. After the frost had come on. It was shady all through the woods, and moss and ferns were everywhere, but we always had to look for snakes, for there were lots of them around, some were poison and some not.

Once when we were playing near the chicken house, we heard the birds scolding and squawking so hard that we went over to see what was wrong. There was a big blacksnake, coiled around a big limb of the tree. We went and got Father and he shot the snake. He said it had stolen eggs and swallowed them and was crushing the shells by coiling around the tree that way. Once when we children were playing near the house, we saw a big snake crawling around the side of the house. When she heard us she opened her mouth and her little ones ran right in her mouth and down her throat. Then she sure took after us. That’s the way snakes protect their babies they said.

To Be Continued…

I hope you enjoyed that bit of family history as I did. See you again soon with another story from the past.


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