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History Lives Here Text

Visiting Grandma Ames and Aunt Rena

BarryJohnson, in researching his house, received a letter written some time ago byMary (Byron) Genrits that refers to the Saugatuck house on the hill on Main Street when itwas owned by the Amesfamily. Here are excerpts of local historical interest


Grandma andGrandpa Ames came from Ganges to Saugatuck. Ibelieve they floated some of their furniture on the Kalamazoo river. There were a lot of strayIndians in the territory. Several tribes were mentioned by Mr. Sheridan whowrote Saugatuck Through the Years, ?830 to 1980. The Pottawattamies werementioned and the Ottawasmostly, but there were a string of others I never hear of. Why am I talkingabout Indians? They sneak into my thoughts.


WhenGrandma and Grandpa Ames and family moved into the house on the hill, I don'tknow if they rented it or how long they stayed, it was a one story house. Theliving room area or parlor as it was called, was a saloon for the Indians. Idon't know how long they stayed there but they bought some farming property. AMr. Comstock who came from the east bought property all around that area butfinally settled down to be a gentleman farmer near the end of the 19thcentury and later sold the farm to the famous Belvedere farms (from Mr. Sheridan'sbook). The Comstock family was across from Grandpa's farm. Mother met Dad whilehe was working at the Comstock farm.


Now we cometo my grandmother Mary Ellen Davis Ames(Mrs. Richard Ames). Grandfather named me after her. When I was 16 we found outmy father's mother's name was Mary Ellen. I always thought they were still onthe farm when he died in 1910. I was a year old. I'm not sure as to the datethey left the farm and bought back the Saugatuck house. I distinctly rememberwhen I was quite small (4 or 5, 1912 or 1913) of standing on the east side ofthe house with a group of people. I stood close to Mother. There was Grandma,Aunt Rena and Mrs. Grenaugh (probably, Mrs. Greenhalgh) who lived on theeast side of Grandma, next door.


There was alot of activity. They added on to the east side kitchen porch, put up a roofand added a window to the linen closet which they enlarged when attaching thewood shed. They added the coal and wood bins. There was a window on the westside of the shed (today we call it a utility room). That room was not finishedon the inside, just the 2 x 4's and siding. There was a door at the back thatled to the 2 holer at the foot of the stairs. They removed the privy from thegarden end of the plot. I can see Aunt Rena now planting a rose bush trellis inback of the privy.


They raisedthe roof on the main part of the house and put a stairway in a small roombehind the parlor. We called it the library as there were several cabinets ofbooks. At the bottom of the stair case was a large turkey red upholstered chairwith carved ends on both arms. Delia got that chair and she told me that Stanhad it now. I used to sit there and day dream when I was around 6 or 7 visitingGrandma. I really loved the old chair and I'd sit and read and day dream forhours. When I lived with Aunt Rena for 2 summers when I was 16 or 17 and workedat Parish's Drug Store, behind the soda fountain, I earned $15 a week. Same asmy father made at the Interurban office. Aunt Rena saved my salary and gave itto father. It paid for my school books, etc.


When I was 6 I stayed withGrandma for several days and on one of the evenings she took me to achurch social banquet at the Butler Hotel. Mrs. Huff, the wife of the hardwarestore owner, and her daughter, my age, attended too. I wasn't feeling verywell, coming down with a cold. Grandma bought me rock candy for thecold. Of course at the banquet I played with the Huff girl. It so happened thatthe cold was the forerunner of the measles and the Huff girl caught them fromme. The outcome was Mrs. Huff was so angry she wouldn't speak to Grandmotherfrom then on.

Grandmotherused to take me to visit her friends. Two of them were Mr. & Mrs. Aliber. Heowned a grocery store on Main Street at the foot of the hill that Grandma livedon. They lived above the store. I remember they had so many pretty glass vasesetc. Mrs. Aliber died. They had one son, a good looking boy. Aunt Rena was onlyhome during spring break and summer vacation when schools were closed. Shesupported Grandma. She put a certain amount in the bank for Grandma to draw on.Grandma had a lady friend, Mrs. Kantner, who stayed with her one winter and Iguess after Mrs. Aliber died they visited Mr. Aliber frequently taking himfresh baked cookies and bread. I guess one winter they baked up a storm,bringing baked goods to friends. They went through a lot of Grandma's account,which Aunt Rena stopped. Aunt Rena was afraid Grandma had designs on Mr.Aliber. If she did they came to naught. When Grandma started ailing, she cameto Holland andstayed with us, where she died in 1918. I was 9 years old.


Aunt Renainherited Grandma's estate. She lived there every summer except when she tooktrips and went to summer school in Battle Creek. I remember we went to visit her there. Duringthe holidays she came to stay with us. It was always exciting expecting her toarrive by train.


Mother'sand Aunt Rena's cousin, Clarence Davis from Ganges, came to see us everysummer. He had an apple orchard in Ganges and in the winter he lived in Alabama where he had apecan grove. When he came back to Ganges healways bought us a big bag of pecans. Boy, those were good. During the summerhe brought us apples from the Ganges farm. Iliked the white sweet ones we got during the summer.


Mother hada friend, Delis Pride. In fact Mrs. Pride and her sister Mrs. Whipple were verygood friends of the family, especially Mrs. Pride. We called her Aunt Dee. Mysister Delis was named after her. They owned a summer hotel in Saugatuck. Iremember one spring break when Aunt Rena came to Hollandand took me to Saugatuck for a day to take the ferry across to Mt. Baldhead.We went flower picking all through the woods. May flowers, violets andtrillium. When we came back we visited Aunt Dee and she gave me a cute littleglass vase, no a basket. It broke on the journey to Florida. I was heartbroken because I alwayscherished that little glass basket. When Aunt Dee and Mrs. Whipple sold thehotel when they got older they moved to a house just off Main Street behind the gift shop. Therewas a little square there. They opened up a nursing home as there was nohospital in Saugatuck. The population was only around 500 people. I guess theystarted it on the advice and help of one of the doctors for his patients. Ican't recall his name. [probably Dr. Walker] They ran the home untilthey died. Aunt Dee went first. Mrs. Whipple had a daughter Julia who was afriend of my sister Delis. They kept in touch with each other for years. Infact when I was retired and went to Saugatuck one weekend to look at houses Ifound no grocery in town so that was that, but I went to a little book andpaper store that Julia and her husband ran. I inquired about her, but she wasin a hospital in Douglas and since l had notransportation I didn't see her. When my sister Rena stayed in Saugatuck onewinter she did a lot of sewing for Aunt Dee.


Grandma's house had a parlorwhich was seldom used. Then there was the sitting, dining room. There was amahogany drop leaf table that, when you used extra leaves, would seat 12easily. It was oval shaped. The drop leaf table sat against a wall and had arunner, a long table scarf, of pieced velvet pieces. The seams were covered withbright silk floss embroidery work. The velvet was in dark color. There was alamp and small knick-knacks on the table. Grandma had a cane rocking chair andthere was another little rocker and a day bed. Sometimes they had the sewingmachine in there and sometimes they had it in the kitchen. There was a smallbedroom, just big enough for a bed. They had the Jenny Lind bed and a largechest with a large hanging cupboard for grandma's knick-knacks. There was nocloset, only pegs on the wail for her clothes. I remember loving to explore thecupboard. There was a powder horn that one of the nephews used in the civilwar. A hand made bag made of dark brown seeds and lots more that I cannotrecall. The Jenny Lind bed was moved upstairs to the guest room. A 3l4 bed wasbought so Grandma would have more room. The pantry was next to the bed room.

The kitchenwas a large cheerful room that was always used for the family dining room.There was a cherry drop leaf table that seated 4 or 6 in a pinch. I inheritedboth tables and when I moved to Florida I sentthem to my daughter Alice in California.Grandma had a rocking chair in the kitchen too. There were 2 windows and 4doors. Two went directly outside, east and west. There was a large wood burningstove and a sink with a pump. City water and sewer came later and the bathroomwas installed.


I'll justremember her comfortable porch swing. It was on her screened in front porch. Mysister Rena and her husband Peter loved to sit out there on a summers eveningwhen they came for a visit. The summers I lived there I'd occupy it in ahorizontal position and listen to the summer sounds. The birds, the bees, theKaty Dids and the crickets and squirrels chattering. It was a place to daydream.

I guess I've finally come to the end. Iíve certainly rambledon. Love to every one

- Aunt Mary

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