POPPLEWELL FARM HISTORY
By Patricia Ambrose Mazanec, 1998
Long ago when the twentieth century was new and fresh, time passed in a more leisurely manner. The term "horsepower" usually meant the draft power of horses, mules and maybe even oxen. The hours were long and the work was hard, with few or no shortcuts in the field or the kitchen. The hard work produced a generous food supply for both humans and animals, creating a deep sense of satisfaction for those who tilled the land. This lifestyle allowed Jim and Mollie Popplewell to live their dream for almost half a century.
James Isaac Popplewell acquired land from his uncle, Elisha F. Popplewell, by trading a team of horses and a wagon for 40 acres. According to land patent records filed in Boonville, Harry P. Ragsdale homesteaded the farm. Elisha Popplewell bought the land from Harry Ragsdale and later sold it to his nephew.
It is difficult for one person to run a farm, so on January 16, 1902, James Isaac Popplewell "Jim Ike" and Mollie Meredith rode horseback to the home of Jim's uncle, Jon Winfrey, a minister, who married them. Mollie rode sidesaddle, the custom of the day and designed to accommodate the ladies dresses. Mollie, the youngest child of Benjamin and Mary Elizabeth (Bradshaw) Meredith, never liked her birth name, Mary Margaret, and had long since insisted on being called Mollie.
Jim and Mollie set up housekeeping in the old two room house on the farm with an almost adjoining log cabin. On March 14, 1903, Mollie gave birth to their first child, Reagan, whose vivid memories provided much of the information for this story. The uncle, Elisha, continued to live with the young family; when Reagan was a small child, he and Elisha slept in the log cabin. Reagan remembered the lime chinking was missing in some places and on many winter mornings he and Uncle awoke to find snow on their bedcovers.
In 1908, Jim Ike began constructing a concrete house. He employed two men to mix the concrete, using sand and gravel from nearby creeks. Jim Ike personally carried and poured all the concrete into the 12-inch cribbing forms, which were raised each day. To carry the concrete, he used a wooden "hod", a V-shaped trough about two feet long with 10 to 12 inch sides and back; the front end was open with rounded edges. Exterior walls were nine inches thick; interior walls were six inches thick. Sometimes he was able to pour a full round of concrete in one day. Joists and rafters were cut from native lumber; ceilings and floors are one inch by four inch tongue and groove pine. The interior walls are plaster finished on the concrete. The house was finished in early 1909 and the family moved into their new home in March or April. Reagan remembered having a little wagon that he used to haul several loads from the old house to the new. One load that he particularly remembered was the coffee pot and the coffee mill.
A fine new barn was constructed near the house in 1909 and/or 1910. A shed that joined one side of the barn housed a large Fairbanks-Morse scale, an important addition to the neighborhood. Son, Tennyson, recalled that neighbors frequently drove livestock to the Popplewell farm to have them weighed as part of a sale agreement. Each time the scales were used, Jim Ike or one of his sons would check the accuracy of the scales with the 50 pound tester before the animals were driven onto the scale. In friendly competition, the men would each guess the weight of the animals to see who was closest to the actual weight registered by the scale.
Jim Ike managed the farm well and he and Mollie prospered, adding both children and acres as the years went by. Clara was born May 5, 1908, and brought joy to the family until her death on November 27 of that year. Lola, the first to be born in the new house, arrived Jun3 17, 1910; the twins, Eula and Zula, were born September 26, 1912 (Zula died March 2, 1913); followed by three boys, Curtis, Gail, and William Tennyson. Iris Gertrude was born April 24, 1921. The farm eventually grew to 600 acres.
The farm was largely self-sufficient, with both horses and mules to power the farm machinery, cows to provide milk, butter, and perhaps some cheese; the hogs and chickens provided meat, with the hens also supplying eggs. Down from the flock of geese made comfortable pillows and warm feather beds. A garden, on the site of the original two-room house, supplied the family with vegetables; corn and wheat grown on the farm were ground into cornmeal and flour at the nearest grist mill.
Mollie baked yeast bread, probably two or three times a week; biscuits and/or cornbread almost daily. Cakes, made from scratch, were a favorite dessert. The wood cooking stove that dominated the kitchen did not have a thermostat to regulate the heat; Mollie, Lola and Eula had to be able to judge the temperature accurately enough to avoid burning the food. With only a very primitive telephone system, visitors usually just appeared and were visited with, fed, or provided sleeping accommodations as needed.
When the children were old enough to go to school, they walked 1 ¼ to 1 ½ miles to reach the Barton School, their local one room school. With school comes expanded social life. Mollie's brother and sister-in-law, Bill and Victoria Meredith, and their family lived on a nearby farm. The two sets of cousins were about the same ages and spent much time together; in many ways they were closer than many brothers and sisters. It was not at all unusual for members of either family to look out and see some of their cousins coming across the field to visit or spend the night.
Uncle Elisha, or Uncle as he was known, never married and continued to live to live with the family. When Mollie's father became ill, her parents moved in with Jim and Mollie. Benjamin died in Dece3mber 1912, about 2 ½ months before granddaughter Zula's death. Mollie's mother stayed on, helping Mollie to care for the little ones and whatever else she could do to help until her own death in 1915.
There were no funeral parlors, or they were too far away, so family members washed and dressed the deceased. Two neighbor men usually made the caskets and other neighbor men dug the grave. The deceased was laid out at home.
Time passed, the children grew to be adults and the horrors of World War II mobilized the country. Gail and Tennyson were drafted into the military. The animal population dwindled as need for their services and products diminished. The children who played there were grandchildren or other young friends, and a new generation of cousins learned to share games and experiences at frequent Sunday gatherings. Finally one Sunday morning in August 1949, Jim Ike came into the house after feeding his hogs and told Mollie he was tired. He laid down to take a nap; he was laid to rest three days later at Glover Cemetery, just up the hill from three infant daughters and just down the hill from his uncle, Elisha Popplewell. Mollie lived for another 15 years, until December 1964; she was laid to rest beside her Jim on the day after Christmas.
The farm was sold in 1951 to Gail and Shirley Whittle, who still own it. The old house continued to shelter young families for a few more years until it was finally beyond repair.
On Saturday, October 10, 1998, the old house and yard will once again hear voices and laughter as Curtis and Tennyson Popplewell, some of their Meredith cousins, most of the Popplewell grandchildren and several of the great and great-great-grandchildren meet there for a reunion.