Saturday, February 23, 2013

Kate Youngs –In Love AND Hip! By Pat Kinsella Herdeg

Kate Youngs, Age 21--1885

Kate Permelia Youngs is my great grandmother, mother of Ethel, Adin, Lillian and Ruth Baker. Thanks to Laurel Wood Decker, we have copies of Kate Youngs’ diaries for the years of 1884 and 1885.

On September 6th, 1885, a twenty-one year old Kate married Byron Baker (who was age twenty-six at the time), so I was anxious to read her diaries and see how the romance progressed.

By January of 1884, Kate had lost her only sister Rosena just six months before. Sometime in 1884, Byron’s first wife, Tina Smith Baker died. While I hoped Kate’s diary would mention an exact date for this death, it did not (as far as I know, we do not have an exact date for Tina’s death).

Early in the winter and spring months of 1884, Kate and her brother Ed go to many parties, often staying out until three or four in the morning. All through the many months of 1884, I waited to hear of Byron, slowly reading the very faint and penciled passages of Kate’s diary—no mention of Byron, but plenty with initials of possible suitors. Many parties, many ‘a riding’ in the cutter during the snowy months.

Then, in December of 1884 (and knowing that Kate would marry Byron nine months later), I read:

Friday December 12th: Ed and I went up to Marline’s Party with the cutter. I had a boss time. Made quite a mash on B.B. (Editor—B.B. is Byron Baker). Danced every set with him. Carried On. We both ate off from one plate. Played Euchre together. Got home about 4 o’clock.

Age 26

Okay, it IS difficult to read Kate’s writing as it is in fading pencil, but it DOES look like a ‘boss time’. I thought that CANNOT be—too modern a saying; I am always bamboozled by what my youngest child (at age 21) is coming out with (‘jenky’ is slang for cool???). But, when I googled ‘boss’ and slang, I found this --According to the New York Times crossword puzzle, “Boss” can be a slang term meaning ‘excellent, terrific’. The New York Times page continued: “This usage has been around a long time, first recorded in the 1880s. This use of ‘boss’ fell out of fashion for decades until it was revived in the 1950s in teen and jazz circles.” Wow! Who knew my great grandmother was such a hip woman!

Also, from Victorian slang online, they say that in about 1880, ‘to mash on’ was sort of equivalent to having a ‘crush’ on someone. ‘Crush’ won out, but as Kate Youngs’ diary shows, it WAS used in her day!

Back to the diary—

Sunday, December 28th, 1884: “Ed, Em and I got ready to go to evening meeting. Byron B. came and took me away with him so Ed and Em went on. B and I went a riding all over, called to Maldens and had a gay old time all around. I got home at 11 o’clock and I had fun by the bushel.”

In the 1885 diary,

Sunday February 8th, 1885: “Byron came and took me a riding. We had a jolly old time.”

Over the winter and spring, Byron took her ‘a riding’ many times, sometimes getting home in the 3 to 4 o’clock time frame. In her diaries, where others were just initials, B.B. of mid-December’s diary passage progressed to always ‘Byron’ in her diary.

On March 15th, at her grandfather Abram Youngs' funeral, Kate writes of C.I.D. and how he is so pleased to see her (he figures into her diary many times, but JUST as initials). He "was so pleased to see me and tried to buzz around me but I was rather cold towards him." Our girl had already made up her mind for Byron, I am thinking!

I waited to see when she would write about her upcoming marriage, but found nothing but mostly empty pages all summer. Then, on the actual date:

September 6th, 1885: “Byron came and got me and we went to Union and were married by Rev. ?? (OH those hard to read penciled writings!) Late coming home and took supper. Went to Evening Meeting and then to his father’s.”

Aunt CB (Yes, Mom to me…) tells me that in those days, weddings were usually at the minister’s home and very matter-of-fact. It sure sounds like that from reading Kate’s diary! The rest of her 1885 diary? Empty!

Well, while we do not know her emotions about her wedding day, we DO know that she was ‘boss’ and ‘mashed up’ about her husband—all good things.

Her diaries also show many times making pies and cookies and bread all day long, she at age 21. Shades of what was to come later in life—little wonder that in her last years, when deaf and blind, she could still bake bread and luscious lemon sugar and vanilla cookies by feeling the ingredients—she had been doing it for seventy years or more!

Kate Permelia Youngs Baker—so many facets to you—Wish I had known you!

Kate Club, 2011--Named for Kate Youngs Baker--Madeline Kate Kinsella, Lucille Kate Taylor Kinsella, Alison Kate Herdeg and Leah Kate Walker
Any More Cousins in the Kate Club out there?!


Mom/CB said...

Good job, Pat!! I, too, wish you had known her! She was a worker, aleways called to neighbors when nursing was needed and at 90 years old, blind and deaf, still making bread with the help of her son who pushed the flour can to her, she took so many handfuls, then the suger, etc until she was done and the bread was GREAT!!
She loved to have visitors but you had to shout to do so! Tiring but well worth it , for it made her so happy! She would have loved the KATE Klub!!

Dad, Jack said...

Speaking of Great Grandma, Kate, I was, undeservedly, a favorite of hers. We used to visit her and Adin in the summer and if you have been there you know the problem they had with flies. Well, one time the screen in the front door got ripped and then they really did have fly problems. Luckily, shortly after, the Lochner family visited and Dick fixed the screen. For some reason, Kate thought it was me who did the job because every time after that when we came she would tell me how grateful she was that I fixed that screen. I always told her it wasn’t me, it was Dick Lochner but for some reason it never got through to her. After awhile, I just accepted her praise and shut up.

Laurel Decker said...

This post is wonderful! I had read all/most of the diaries years ago when I became the caretaker of them. I never (not having Google) truly understood some of it... Now I do Thank You.

Pat said...

Thank you Mom and Dad and Laurel. Comments always add so much!

Even I vaguely remember fly papers filled with dead flies at reunions in Center Lisle--at Otty Lake when Mom put up new ones every summer, I would flash back to a farmlike setting--must be the Baker farm.

And Laurel, if you read ALL of her diaries, then your eyes must be mighty strained--it was tough going, wasn't it?! But, getting to the end of the diary and finding those gems made it worth while.

Again, thank you so much for sharing them so that I could share this small story with the cousins!