Hardin County

Barbara Humm Reif

Grandma Reif is 93 years old.

ELIZABETHTOWN, Ill. (Jan. 26, 1939) — Two months younger than Uncle Billy Winters, Hardin County's oldest resident, who was 93 October 29 is Grandma Barbara Reif, who was 93, Thursday, January 5.

She was born in Germany in 1846, and her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Humm, brought their five daughters, of whom she was the youngest, to this country, when she was 9 years old. It took them 88 days to cross the ocean from Germany to America. Eight of those days there was no wind and their boat bobbed about on the waves, she remembers their captain went back and started over again. They landed in New Orleans and from there came up the Mississippi and Ohio rivers by boat to what was then spelled Rose Clare in Hardin County, near where Mr. and Mrs. Manuel Herman had located when they came from Germany before the Humms.

Grandma Reif's parents bought from a man named McCarty, the farm near Lonesome Ridge, on the hills above the present road 34 between Stone Church and St Joseph Church where Mr. and Mrs. Baker Finney now live. Mrs. Reif attended school in the log schoolhouse at Sycamore and Mr. Greathouse was the teacher.

"But I did not go to school very much." Grandma or Aunt Polly as she is often called said, "I could not speak English and the other boys and girls tried to make me talk for them and so I did not go to school to be teased." She remembers spelling bees, they used to have them and that there were no paper or pencils—one used a slate and slate pencil.

"Lewis Reed, He's older than I am, was another pupil at Sycamore in those days. He lives at Harrisburg now," she said.

Grandma Reif had been in this county three years, when with Margaret Seiner, Kathryn Hermann, they made the trip alone to Evansville for their first Communion, as there were no Catholic Church nearer Hardin County then Evansville, Indiana.

She was married to Nicholas Reif in the first church at St Joseph, a log building January 25, 1871, by Father Miller from Shawneetown. Her husband's people had landed here the day her family had sailed from Germany.

They bought the farm from her parents and lived there until about 30 years ago when the house and most of its contents burned. They rebuilt it, but because of Mr. Reif's failing health they sold the farm to Baker Finney and moved to Eichorn where they lived 'til Mr. Reif died 17 years ago.

A piece of hand woven linen brought from Germany which Grandma has given to her daughter before the house burned is the only article that they brought to this country which has been saved.

Grandma remembers that one drove to the stores of Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Lefler in Elizabethtown to buy clothes and shoes. She said that when they landed at Rose Clare, Hardin County was all trees. The stock was allowed to run loose in the woods until farmers got rail fences built, as foxes was killing them.

She said her parents first raised potatoes as one grows potatoes in new ground and then grew corn. Alfred Woods bought the potatoes in that vicinity and shipped them on boat to New Orleans. Friends didn't have parties frequently then as they do now, the hog killings in the winters were the times. Grandma Reif in all her years has never seen a winter as warm as this one in Hardin County. She said that the river froze over frequently in her younger days, but she imagines that was because the water was so much lower before the dams were put in.

Grandma remembers deer, wild turkey and quail in Hardin County. She said her crippled sister, Mary once found two tiny deer in the corner of the rail fence. While the father was attending the fair at Elizabethtown one got caught behind a trunk when it tried to escape from the house, but the other became one of the domestic animals. The girls tied a cord around its neck and it was turned loose in the woods with the cattle. It came back with the cattle each evening for a long time, 'til one evening it didn't appear and they never saw their deer again.

Wild and tame turkeys got fed together, then. In those days housekeepers made yeast of meal and hops and baked on Saturday for the rest of the week. They dried vegetables as they had no cans or glass jars. They had very few stone jars. They made tallow candles in a molds where 12 were made at a time "and you had no light after they were used" Grandma said.

Grandma is in excellent spirits, keeps busy crocheting and piecing quilts. Enjoys going to parties at St Joseph and is planning to attend Hardin County's 100th birthday party. But she thinks they can't have a cake with that many candles on it—her cake won't hold the required 94 now.

Thanks to Wanda H. Reed for contributing this article to the Hardin County ILGenWeb site. The Hardin County Independent first published this article on Jan. 26, 1939.

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