Excerpt...........Chapter One, Part I
Dad, Raymond Ballinger
THE STORM HIT HARD. The next day, after the funeral, David T. realized he couldn’t make it home with the horse and buggy. His baby, Ethelind, was sick with dysentery, and he needed to get home. He left his horse and started walking nine miles through the worst part of the blizzard, across farmland and over four foot rail fencing. In some places the snow had drifted as high as fifteen feet and he couldn’t tell if the fences were even there. The wind was up to forty miles an hour.
I forget how many hours they said it took him, walking from Moorestown to the Homestead in Marlton. The storm lasted three and one-half more days leaving snow six to seven feet deep. They said this was the worst blizzard in memory. People died of exposure, pneumonia, and influenza and most of the telegraph lines fell.
Poor little baby Ethelind died during the snowstorm. Grandma couldn’t get the doctor there in time. Uncle Herm was eleven years old and she died in his arms. He told me he dreamt about her for years.
In 1888, Life for children was harsh. My grandfather, David T., had hitched up his buggy and headed to the funeral of his sister in Moorestown, nine miles away. He left his wife, my Grandmother Sally B., at the Homestead with his boys because of the upcoming storm.
My grandfather, like all the Ballinger men, was tall and broad-shouldered with a square face and pale copper tone curly hair and piercing blue eyes. Grandmother had the darker Welsh Evans’ coloring with softer features.
When David T. and Sally B. married in 1876 they bought the original large brick William Evans house on the Homestead with some of the acreage that was part of the original Evans plantation from Sally’s aunt and uncle, Thomas and Abigail Evans, uniting the Ballinger and Evans families under one roof.
David T. hadn’t much of a dairy farm. He owned sixteen to eighteen head of cattle and would grow a patch of tomatoes with other patches of cantaloupes, watermelon, sweet corn and a few potatoes. He raised a lot of chickens and he sold pigs and vegetables. The pigpen was too close to the house and would smell in the hot summer, but our family liked pork, so no one complained.
My five uncles were all raised on the Evens-Ballinger Homestead and they worked the farm together. They were educated in a one room Quaker school house in Pine Grove not far from the Homestead, just a fifteen-minute walk through Cousin Clayt Evens’ fields. My oldest uncle, Herm, was born in 1877 and the youngest, my father Raymond, was born in 1892. In between were Harry, Dave, Anna, and Evans.
During the haying season of 1895, Granddad, his sons, and his father in law, Samuel Burroughs Evens mowed, raked, cured, and hauled some fine timothy and clover. Dave, having just learned how to, and continually reading from the Farmer’s Almanac was predicting “destructive thunderstorms throughout the Northeast.” My father, Raymond, was four years old
Sally had cooked her usual big breakfast for the seven men. The horses were restless. The wind was coming up and everything was dry. David T. had promised to take Sally into town to buy a new dress for Anna. They reached the end of the lane when a large crack of thunder bolted through the sky, followed by two streaks of lightning. Within seconds, all three barns were burning and quickly went up in flames.