Grace Swift wrote a journal of her families emigration from Single Hill, Somerset, England to the United States and their subsequent lives there. The hand written journal covers the first half of the 20th century. What follows is my transcription of that journal.
I was born in Single Hill Somerset England. 8 miles from the famous Roman City of Bath “Aqua Sulis” as it was called in Roman times. I arrived April 24th 1904 just a few days to late to be an anniversary present April 16th
I was baptised shortly after at Wellow church (Church of England, Even though the family was Methodist & the chapel was not permitted to marry, baptize or bury this was done by high church.
In the early 19 hundreds Uncle Harry who was living in America had returned to England for a visit. Uncle Walter was married and living in South Wales. Due to Uncle Harry’s persuasion they decided to immigrate to America & sailed from Southampton in October 1904. These details are from Mother who told me these happenings and many others, as I grew older.
It took 2 weeks to make the ocean voyage on the “Dario”, mother was ill all the way across so Aunt Hannah looked after me. After the voyage and a stay at “Ellis Island” they were on their way to Kentucky & Uncle Harry. “Strunks Lane” I believe was the name of the place. Dad & Uncle Walt had jobs in the coalmines.
Mother & Auntie spoke many times of their great disappointment in their homes here, Coming from comfortable stone houses into log cabins full of chinks, cold & cheerless was a very great change. They decided to brighten up the place so bought felting & paper & did the job, then went out to let it dry pleased with the job. Came back to find the felt & paper standing around the walls. They were Crest fallen. Could laugh about it all later.
Rooting pigs lived under the cabin, one day mother set me out on the porch with some bread & butter, next thing she knew one of the pigs had my hand & all in its mouth & was dragging me into the yard, she expected to see my hand gone by the time she got me away from the pig.
Jan 16 1905 cousin Gladys was born. Then later that year mother had Nora later that year. Uncle & Dad had to go over the mountain for the.. … It took some persuasion to get him to come as he had so many tricks played on him however he finally decided to come. Nora was born under a leaky ceiling. An umbrella was held over mother and the bed pushed from one side of the room to the other to keep the bed in dry spots. Nora only lived 6 months, she died of whooping cough.
Uncle, Auntie & Gladys had gone to Johnston City, Illinois, another coal mining town & we followed. My sister Laura was born there.
Auntie & Uncles 2nd child was a son but did not live long. My brother Hubert was born May 16 1910. Laura died at the age of 3 with the dreaded diphtheria. I had it at the same time but recovered. Cousin Flo (Florence) was born September 1st year? Then they had Freda who died at 3 years. Edith was born Feb 5 1912 & my sister Lilli came the same year May 4th 1912.
Dad left us in April 1913. A sad time for mother. Dad so young to die 36 years old. Mother with 3 of us & another on the way no income, Auntie & Uncle were wonderful I was too young to understand all they were doing for us. That understanding came with the years. The memory of that …… Auntie & Uncle will always be precious.
Mothers house was rented. We lived with Auntie & Uncle for a time until rooms could be added to the empty store on uncle’s lot. He then stocked it with groceries & mother was in business.
Christina was born 6 months after dad died Nov 12, 1913 again Auntie took care of things. It was a beautiful November day I can remember all of us children sitting on the flight of steps leading to Aunties back porch & Auntie coming over to tell us we had a little sister. Aunties Clarence was born March 10th 1914
Now I was 19 & Mother began to tell me of my birthplace, voyage etc. So I heard of grandparents who had died in England & of grandfather Swift who was still living, of Aunties, Uncles & Cousins and at this time she started me writing short notes to her family & Dads. They had always kept in touch.
She told me about her early life. How father died when she was 8. He too died very young. At 8 years she went out to service in one of the big houses in Bath, 8 miles from Single Hill. At 16 she was engaged to Dad. Then an incident happened that kept them apart for 10 years. Across the stream from his house was a huge estate & to this date 1982 the same family still owns it. Poaching was a criminal offence & dad was caught at it. He pretended to faint & the warden left him to get water & dad up & fled & had to leave the area because he was known. He went to London & joined the army. Spent some time in Halifax. Served in the Boer war in Soouth Africa by the time he returned home 10 years had gone by.
In the meantime Mother had gone to London. Aunt Alice was working in one of the big houses in the area. Mother got a job as Chief (head) Cook at the home in Sunningdale of Lord & Lady Peel. She was there when Dad returned, left there to be married.
In spite of my responsibilities at this time my child hood had been and was a happy time. I can remember the hours we spent at Aunties house, playing games, keeping store, etc. Most of our week ends in the woods & fields we knew where all the wild flowers grew in the spring, where the persimmial and hickory nut trees grew & went back in the fall to gather them. The Hughes sisters, Elizabeth & Mary were generally part of our group & many times on our way back from our field trips would stay in their house & their mother would give us our supper.
We always lived near or next door to Auntie & Uncle, my cousins and I spent a lot of time together, grew up more like sisters than cousins. Our ties to each other have grown stronger with the passing years.
Mother married Robert Lockey a widower on June 19th 1916. Mother gave up the store & Uncle took it over.
We moved into our stepfather’s house on Harris? Street, Beside the 4 of us there was John, Margaret & Florence, a big responsibility for 1 man.
We soon began calling Mr. Lockey ‘dad’ He was good to all of us & to Christina he was the only father she knew. He loved mother very much. We had a deep affection for him.
The war years came along. 1918 & we saw many young men go from Johnston City Illinois a good day for all of us when John to go. He left Feb 1918 & returned in August 1919 safe & sound. Their company did not reach the front lines as the war ended
Mary E. was born Aug 28th 1919 & was named by John for a dear Aunt of his.
Margaret left home to go to work for Friedmanns. Later went to So. Carolina to marry Ernest Herzog, she had met him in Il. He spent some time at the front.
Chris now was 6 years old, Lily 7 but she was still sickly, she improved with the years.
Change came again in 1920
Dad decided he would like to go to Vermont & see a farm with the idea of settling down there. The house and furnishings were sold and Dad went on ahead of us & we followed later. Mother, Florence 18, myself almost 16, Hubert, Lilly, Chris & Mary. John & Margaret did not leave Illinois.
We finally reached Boston where we stayed a week. Dad returned from Vermont, decided it was not the place for us so we returned to Chicago and put up in rooms at the old Washington Hotel on W W Street. We had to find a place to live. Dad made the acquaintance of a decorator in the hotel. ??? talking to him about the situation. He said he and his family were moving from their house on Lake Park Avenue and would dad like to take it over. He also had some furniture to sell. Dad agreed and we moved in while they were still there. This was at 34 Lake Park. Mrs ???? had a sister working for Illinois Bell Telephone Co., through her Florence & I got a job. This in April 1920 2 weeks before my 16th birthday. Dad finally got a job in real estate & we settled down in Chicago.
For a few years (dad being in real estate) We moved from one house to another & became very well acquainted with the S.E. side of ??? 35th to 47th. After leaving an apartment on ??? Blvd. We moved to ????????? Park – ???? off 69th Street.
It was a neighborhood of children & they all seemed to have such a joyous time together. The Hamlers became part of the group. Hubert later married Maude. We were walkers in those days, made frequent trips to 63rd & Halsted an interesting shopping center, after walked to Jackson Park. In those days one walked or stayed home. There was no extra money for cab fare.
After this we lived for a time on 70th street, A shop & an apartment, Mother & Dad ran the shop. After a year or so there business was not so good so dad sold out & we moved to a house on Winchester Avenue. Now I was 25 still working for Illinois Bell. Hubert had graduated from high school and was working for Welch manufacturing.
I had been saving my money & decided on a trip to England. I wanted very much to see my one remaining grandparent. (Grand father Swift). I had continued writing through the years, Wanted so much to take mother with me, Dad finally consented to her going.
At the time (1928/29) I had met Catherine Aauld in the new office to which I had been transferred, she mentioned a trip to England and Scotland in 31. As it worked out Catherine, Mother & I made the trip together. We stayed for a night in Swissvale PA with Gertie & Edgar Horwood. Irene was not very old. Gertie had just returned from England where Roger?s had been born. Went on from there to New York where we boarded the ship “Majestic”, arriving at Southhampton we were met by Uncle Hubert & Aunt Alice (from London) with a cab Catherine had boarded the train to London, We would meet again in London.
Traveling to Single Hill I enjoyed talking to my Aunt & Uncle & learned Grandfather was very ill with pneumonia & was very low. Mother & I were very anxious to see him. The trip by cab to Single Hill from Southampton was through lovely countryside. We laughed and chatted all the way. Finally reached Single Hill and as I stood below the hill looking up at the house of my birth I felt I had been there before & it was not strange to me.
Auntie Alice (Uncle Hubert’s wife was waiting for me. Went to see grandfather a few doors away. Aunt Etta (Uncle Marks wife) was taking care of him so we met her. Auntie said uncle Mark was coming so I ran down the road to meet him. Grandfather recovered & Auntie Etta took him to her home in Shoscombe to look after him, so I was with them many times. Met Ruben & Daisy grand fathers children through a second marriage.
After a month in Single Hill we traveled to South Bank and had some time with dads sister Margaret, met her family and Elizabeth her granddaughter later, we became very good friends. Had a day at Redcar.
Dad’s brother Jo, wife Sarah & Family lived at Wenlaton, so we planned for a day with them. Went up by bus & enjoyed the ride & seen some of the country. Had a glimpse of Durham Cathedral perched high on a hill. The 2 weeks here so passed & we returned to Single Hill.
Next we went to London to be with Aunt Alice. Met her husband David, Sophia * Tom (his children). They were born in America. Auntie took us on many Sight seeing tours Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, St Martins in the fields, out to Sunningdale one day. Other thought she would like to see it again. She was disappointed not to see some of the family but only the gardener was there. So he took us through the grounds. He remembered mother & gave me a great lunch of ????? ?????
I had some time with Catherine & cousins, met Minnie Swift, (mothers cousin) she was married now and was Mrs. Croft. Met Stanley & Bert (?????) and Winnie Swift a niece. Had a day on the commons. Finally returned to Single Hill.
After a time we went to Abertillery in Wales, had some time with mothers Aunt Emily. She had been up to see us when we 1st arrived at S.H. Percy & Albert her sons had driven her up several times, we enjoyed Wales. Percy & Albert had taken us on some nice outings – Cardiff, Swansea to meet mothers Aunt Ada & family. Also had some time with dad’s cousin Albert Swift, his wife Agnes & Lorraine their daughter. We enjoyed it all very much. The time passed too quickly & we had to return to Single Hill.
Our visit was drawing to a close, so there were many meetings with relations & friends before we had to say goodbye. We met Catherine in our Cabin aboard ship & we had much to talk about.
Dad & the family were anxiously waiting for our return & there was much news to pass on.
The depression years were starting. Dad sold the house on Winchester & we moved to Garfield Blvd. Christina & Lilli got work at Woolworths on 63 & Halsted. Mary E. was still in school. Christina later applied for a job at the telephone Co. & was accepted. Hubert & Maude got married on my birthday April 24th & moved into a place of their own. We managed to get through the depression years.
Our next move was to So Green Street near 63rd & Halsted, where we stayed for 20 years or more.
In the intervening years kept in close touch with Auntie & Uncle who remained in J.C. visited them yearly on my vacations. It was always a happy time. Gladys & Art were living in Alton; Edith was working there, met & married Len Gilleland. Glad & Art left Alton & came to live in Chicago.
Catherine and I planned on a trip to England in 1937. So ???? ??? all year saving & getting ready for the trip. ????? went with us. King Edward the 8th abdicated & married Wallace Simpson. George 6th took the throne and would be crowned in 1937
We had to take our vacation & leave of absence early because of summer traffic.
Left n April , smooth sailing,. Took the boat train to London. Aunt Alice & Uncle David met me. Catherines cousins were on hand.
Auntie & I had many outings together, Catherine, Gloria & I had a trip to Scotland stayed with Uncle Davids family. We got around very well on our own. On the way back to London we stopped at Doncaster & had a visit with Dad’s brother Jo & Wife Sarah. Met Harry & family. Harry & wife gave the 3 of us figurines.
Back in London preparations were being made for the coronation & Aunt Alice friend who worked for a lady in Hyde Park had given each of her help permission to have 2 visitors for the occasion. So Aunt Alice took me. I was fortunate. We saw all the lovely parade from the upstairs windows. Everthing was so colorful, a fairy talle sort of thing, something I would never forget.
On to Single Hill and a lovely time there before starting back to Southampton & home, as always enjoyed Bath. Came back home & back to work. Christina now engaged.
1938 : Christina & Carl were to be married in April on the 16th (Mother wedding date 1904 ) Had news Aunt Alice was not very well, and we had the bad news on the morning of the 16th that she had passed on, a day of sadness as well as joy. Christina was a beautiful bride & Lilli a lovely bridesmaid
Lilli later married Jack McGovern. Mary E. married Paul Graham. I still at home with Mother & Dad, I missed my sisters.
None of the family lived far way, and ????? was convenient for shopping so the children were often dropped off while mothers shopped, we were always happy to have them, Maude & Huberts, Peggy & Buddy. Lilis Janice & Pattie, Mary E Deana Robert. The family kept growing. M & H had Linda, Lilli Lilli Jack. Lilli divorced Jack and later married Frank Loschetter. Had child -& Laura. Christina had David the Alice. We are still at Green St.
The war years came along. Carl was drafted & sent to Arizona for flight training. Chris & David joined him there until he was sent overseas then they came home to stay with us Chris went back to Illinois Bell. Paul also had to sign up. The war went on & on, many Americans lost their lives along with those of other countries. Our 2 came safely home. The war finally came to an end.Grace Swift 1949