All Anybody Ever Wanted of Me Was to Work
The Memoirs of Edith Bradley Rendleman
Edited by Jane Adams
Its Union County, Illinois around 1880’s; John Bradley, born 1848 in Kentucky and his wife Mary Curtis born in 1850 in Tennessee, made the move with their teen son, Elijah (Lige) into this county. John and Mary are parents of Lige who married Sarah Penrod and who are the parents of Edith.
This is a story of Edith’s family as told in day-to-day detail as lived in communities that have no addresses – rather they are distinguished by family and place names. The book contains pictures of places, family photos as well as a few maps. There are recipes, stories of food storage and
mattresses made of hay and what they did to keep the bugs out! The women, and men, had to be very skilled, inventive, have a lot of creativity, be strong and resilient just to survive the daily life and Edith takes you there.
It is stated by Jane Adams, that she “undertook a project for the Union County Historical Society to survey the old farmsteads in the county and Edith’s farm was among those. This farm in the bottoms was originally owned by Jesse Ware who owned hundreds of acres”. His son, Charles lost it in 1932 and Lige bought it. As a child, Edith had lived on four farms and as a wife, has lived in four different houses. Edith’s husband’s father, Robert Rendleman, was the founder of the town of Wolf Lake.
In the chapter entitled, “Spice Cake and Fried Squirrel” there are very interesting recipes that will cause a few smiles and a few lifted eyebrows. Remember; inventive and creative! You will learn how to cure a hog in “Bringing In the Harvest” and even a recipe for the original “mincemeat pie” with “meat” included. There are stories of mules, wagons, surreys, picnics and fairs. Weather: floods, biting cold and days too hot, all woven into the recollections.
There’s the story of the one room school house that only went to eighth grade. Many who took that last class two-four times for there was no high school for higher learning until, and if, the students were finally college bound.
In 1949 I moved into the house on the farm owned by Charles Ware. Before Charles’ dad, Jesse died he owned thousands of acres around Wolf Lake and Ware. He owned “my farm”, says Edith – the Tuthill, Bobby McMahon’s and Joneses’ farms. Charles was once the President of the Illinois Central Railroad. “He had a private rail car that would be set on the sideline and he would spend a week or two here. He had servants. He was wealthy but his wife died” – continues Edith – “and he married a model in St. Louis and she and the depression broke him flat”. Mrs. Will Jones bought the Ware place after the Depression and moved there. There was apparently a river road that went around the town of Ware. The house that Charles built was on the bank of Running Lake and nearly covered by flood waters when Mrs. Jones was the owner around 1943.
Edith speaks of going over to Charles Ware’s house and asking him if the Japanese boy that was working and living with them could take her and friends over to Grand Tower to the showboat. The wish was granted and away they went in Charles Ware’s car. The Japanese valet, name not given, died in a farm accident.
Edith holds nothing back in sharing family relationships, no hugs or kisses from Dad, Mom and brothers and sisters. Discipline for her husband as a child, was quite harsh. Her relationship with her father was the strongest even though she admitted being fearful of him. She worked well it seems with her mother but they were not close.
When I started reading this book, I was set to read one horror story after another simply because of the book title. Not so. Edith seems to have been able to share her story with a great deal of dignity and joy of her good, and not so good, life experiences. She manages to incorporate some fun times with friends and even some childish pranks. While I was motivated to read because of the Ware’s mentioned, and there is not much about them, it was a very good read – time well spent.
Book Review by Cleo Holden