In portraying community life in Curtin, Mary Frances Ward several times describes the people as fiercely independent (Ref 1). She could have been talking specifically about my grandmother, Rebecca Parker Glenn (1876-1963), and she might have added other adjectives, as well.
Rebecca was born in Jersey Shore, PA, but came to Curtin as a child when her father, John Parker (1851-1901), accepted the job as storekeeper and postmaster in the village. My grandfather Jerry Glenn (1874-1936) worked at the store and 'took up with' her. They were married and had their first child when she was 19. Jerry went on to take over as storekeeper and postmaster after John Parker's death.
Jerry and Rebecca lived close to the Curtin Mansion for some years. Exactly when they moved into the house shown in the diagram is unclear to me. Neither is it certain when they moved from the house. Jerry and his brother Charles (who lived in Cleveland) had bought the old Glenn Homestead in Howard Township in 1913, but the 1920 census still shows Jerry and Rebecca in Boggs Township (location of Curtin Village). These are details unimportant to the story. What is clear is that they lived for a long period of time in Curtin and that in 1923, they bought a big house in Mount Eagle and the family moved there.
Life was hard. Grandma was stoic. She had eleven babies the old-fashioned way. Two died in their first year of life and are buried in Eagle Cemetery. Widowed at age 59, Becky lived alone the bulk of the time until she died at age 86. She was buried alongside the babies and her husband. While a widow, she outlived three adult daughters. Two of them died in the span of one month. I was old enough to remember the funerals. I don't remember her shedding a tear.
She never even thought of seeing a doctor or a dentist – evidenced in later years by the absence of both teeth and dentures. Her hearing was impaired to some extent for most of her life due to measles. While I knew her, she could barely hear anything -- you had to yell right in her ear -- but she never used a hearing aid. She just got on with it.
She also never had a driver’s license and didn’t go many places. One evening when she was in her mid-to-late 70s, she rode with my Uncle Jack to visit relatives in Howard. After a couple hours, she indicated to him several times that she wished to go home, but he wasn’t ready to leave. Grandma went missing. My uncle found her about two-thirds of the way home, walking along the dark, sparsely traveled road between Howard and Mount Eagle, a distance of about 3 ½ miles before the dam was built. My uncle got an earful.
There weren't many rules for visiting kids in grandma's house. There was one, though. You weren't to slide down the beautiful, long wooden bannister. I'm not sure if it originated in order to preserve the structure or if someone had been hurt while playing on it, but my parents made sure I knew the rule and admonished me not to be in violation. I never saw anyone get into trouble. I never saw anyone challenge grandma's authority.
Grandma could also be wickedly funny in her own way. There was no running water or water heater in her house. Water for washing dishes was heated on the cook stove in a huge kettle. Every so often, someone would screech and jump a mile in the air after failing to take heed of how hot the water was in the dishpan. Grandma’s response was predictable. She would calmly submerge her whole hand in the steaming water, and without saying a word, look around with a wry smile.
Fiercely independent and tough as nails was she.
1 -- Ward, MF: The Durable People. The Community Life of Curtin Village Workers, 1810-1922. The Roland Curtin Foundation, Howard, PA, 1987
2 -- Layton, CG: Curtin Village and Eagle Iron Works: What Was and What Is. Thesis, Penn State University Scholars Program, University Park, PA., 1993.
Jerry is a retired general surgeon and a new Board Member of the Roland Curtin Foundation. He has Curtin roots extending back to 1831, through four previous generations.