Tuesday, August 03, 2004

A Brief History

Mary Catherine Nellissen
Recorded in Caryville, FL. - January 18, 1982
Transcribed from an audio cassette recording by Michael W. Trainor on July 6, 2004

This is the life of my grandfather.
My grandfather came to this country in about 1872. I have a letter he wrote in 1874 from New Jersey on the 4th of August his name was Carl Roberts and he was a Cobbler by trade. He came to this country to better himself and family. He had 2 children. The first two years he done well sending money home to support his family. He tried to get his wife to come to this country but for some reason or another she could not make it. So after several years things got so bad, he had no work. So he could not send home any money to support his wife and children. I have the letter which he wrote to my grandmother which he wrote in 1874.

So after. It’s very sad to read the hardships he had to go through. I feel like crying when I read it. As years went by my grandmother did not hear from him anymore. My grandmother tried to find his whereabouts. She could not find out where he was.

His name was Carl Roberts. He was a Cobbler by trade. So my grandmother took in washing and ironing to support herself and the 2 children. She seemed to be doing very well. But she was heart broken- just the same- it was smiling on the outside and crying on the inside. So one day she said to her children, of course my mother was then 16 years old , "I’m going upstairs lay down and rest." Very soon my mother heard a strange sound. And she (grandfather clock sounds) went upstairs to see what had happened, It was sad. My grandmother got a heart attack and died.

So as years went by my mother had the opportunity to Marry a rich man. He had been a friend in Germany. But one day (she) he told my mother he was going to South America and open up a Coffee Plant, which he did. So he came back to Germany to marry my mother but she refused. My mother was a very strict Catholic but her boyfriends faith did not match my mothers. So she gave him up. So then he got another German girl, married her and took her to South America and they became wealthy. They had children. And he used to send his family to visit to Germany. He also had his children educated in Germany. My mother was a beautiful women. I sometimes think of this, it was her faith in God that stopped her from marrying the rich man.

I am recording the history of myself now.

When I was 6 years old. My father moved to England. My fathers name was Matthias Nellissen.

My father had a hard time with me. Which I remember very well. We had to cross the English channel. My father had a hard time getting me to cross the gang plank, I was so afraid. But I finally made it. But as I got settled on the ship, I became very sick. The nurse on the ship took care of me all night. I sometimes think what a job she had. To me a Nurse is an angel in disguise. We reached the shore of England in the morning. We were well received by the English people. We could not speak English. But we learned very fast. The salvation army were the first people to visit us. I can never forget that visit. They brought us a bag of animal cookies. I can still see the lady handing it to us. We had a wonderful life in England. So then we had to start school. I went to the Prostyle school. I done very well. I didn’t cry once, but the teacher was very kind to me. She took me on her lap and pacified me. So then my father had me take piano lessons.

So the Governors had me play the school March on the piano. She really babied me. She was always so nice to me. So one day she asked me to come to her house and play a song so I did. And the song I played- was "Oh Bonny dear I give the world to see my home across the sea". I played it on the Piano and also sang. (SINGING) "Oh Bonny dear - I give the world to see my home - across the sea, La la la, la la la la Oh Bonny dear take me home again".

Now I will record my young life in Germany.

I was 6 years old when we moved to England. And was 12 years old when we moved back to Germany. To me England is a beautiful memory. My mother was home sick for England when we moved to Germany. But we had to make a new adjustment. Which was very hard to do. So my father opened up a grocery store. My mother took care of it and I helped. And my father got a job in the silk field. My father was a weaver by trade.

So then my father wanted to make a new so then my father wanted to move to the city- to open up a bigger store. So then he thought he would do something different. Sell the store and open up a laundry. So that was gong all right. So then he decided to sell the laundry and sail for America. It was the best thing he ever done. So he got a job in the silk mill Which was in Lock Haven, PA. It was not very long he had a house already for us.
So my mother and me packed and left for America. And also my sister. My sister Mary. Mary, yeah. My father worked very hard to have this already for us. I went to work to learn to be a weaver. I enjoyed it very much. We were doing very well until something happened in the shop. The weavers wanted to strike. So my father packed and we were moving again, It was a cold snowy day, and ice. We had to take the sled ride to the station. So we took the train to Philadelphia. We got a furnished Apartment got a job and went to work. My father had no trouble getting a job. He was such a good weaver he was very much in demand. When we were in Germany he wove the draperies for the London Palace on a hand loom. It was in a vault when the war broke out.
So after being 2 years in this country I decided to take a trip to Germany. As my sister did not come to this country. She got married. So I was visit in my sister. They showed me such a wonderful time.
So then...

The reason I had to do this was I was so homesick for Germany. It was a sad situation. I really didn’t not like it here. So I stayed with my sister for awhile. And I got a job. I got myself a job with a rich lady -as a companion. I then lived in a beautiful mansion. But I felt this was not for me. So I came back to this country. I found out that this wea better. So then my father wanted to go to south amercia. It was a beautiful trip. Strange as it seems thats where I met my first husband. It was divine love. So then when we got back to this country. We were married in New York in the Catholic church by Father (name isn't understandable)? So I when I got married I would never have to move again. But that was a guess. But my moving hadn’t really started. So I am sitting on the porch writing this and wondering how I came out of all this, and came out of it so well...

I live in a old house but the land is beautiful. I thank the Lord for everything that I have. In all my travels I have never found a place- I liked, never found a place I liked so much. I have found peace, and they can’t put me out.

Now I will say something about my married life.

We were married in New York, NY.

We were married in New York City. We live there for two years. Our first child was born in New York City. My husband had the opporutiy to go to Attleboro, MA and get a better job in the Silver Shop. As things did not go so well. We decided to move to Newark, NJ. We then had 2 children. From New Jersey we moved back to Attleboro, MA. We did settle down for about 10 years. So we finally made another change. We moved to Pawtucket, RI From there we moved to Baltimore, MD. We had 5 children then. We had no trouble with the children. They were just naturally good children. So before going to Maryland we decide to visit my sister. Her name was Mary Beinberg. Tenafly, NJ We had to go through NY. And as the Police saw us coming right away they stopped the traffic. The Police blew the wistle. We had no trouble crossing the street with our five children the Police were helping us.

Then we decided to move back to New York. I enjoyed New York very much. But later we moved back to Baltimore. Then we decided to move to Philadelphia, PA. This was a final move. We done very well there for ten years. We had a nice life there. So one day my fath, my husband went to work and did not come back home again. He got a stroke at work. And was taken to the hospital he died and was laid out on fathers day. I tried very to keep up with the difficult situation it was very hard on my children. In 24 hours life had changed. But I kept up my spirit which was the only thing helped me. So my daughter Margaret was then living in Portland, OR. She advised me to come to Portland, OR. It was the best for me. And my youngest son George went into he service. I stayed with my daughter Margaret for 5 months. So after that I look for a job as house work and take care of sick and elderly. It was something I could do best. I was (? ) as one of the family.

And my life was complete. The thing I wanted to most was to help myself which I enjoyed very much.

I will say something of my 2nd Marraige.
I met my 2nd husband in Portland, OR. We were married in San Francisco, CA in 1956. We had a beautiful life together. We were both home loving. We enjoyed home life. I enjoyed Portland, OR very much. It is a beautiful city. I would like to go back there if I could. We enjoyed trips to Mt. Hood. I enjoyed the beautiful fire place there. There was so many beautiful places to go to.
So after my husband retired. He was trying for something different. Strange as it seems my father was on a vacation in Florida. He wanted me to come and see all the beautiful flowers. So that’s what got us interested in Flordia. So we saw a real estate ad in the paper, the Owen real estate in Fountain, FL. We started writing to get some information on land. We did get such inviting letters we deiced on 10 acres. In such a way we did have our foot in FL. So I came to FL to look it over. I was advised not to build on it.
So then we tried the Trout real estate so thats how we got the house I am living in. It was a run down place, so we worked on it and cleaned it up, it’s a beautiful place today. But it took time and patience to do it. But we did really come here for my husband’s health. He was under the doctors care. He did live here for 4 years. He enjoyed the outdoor activity. He was an outdoor man. It was something he wanted to do. I knew very little about outdoor activity. But I soon learned and I enjoyed it so much.
My husband passed away in 1964. We had supper together and then read the bible and also said the *23rd Psalm. This we done every night. So after that my husband Charles said, "I will go to bed a little early tonight". So I said alright I will go to. So he went to the bathroom came out and went to bed just a few minutes he passed away. It was about 7 o’clock at night. As we had no telephone I had to go a neighbors house to reach help. It was very dark out here. We had no street lights then. So the neighbors called the doctor and he sent he ambulance. It was a sad night, but I kept up my spirits which helped.
So then I called up my family they were then a thousand miles away, but those that could come make the trip were here for the funeral. It was the first week in February, everything turned out alright.
Now after 17 years I am still here I sometimes wonder how I done it. But I must say this the lord was with me. I could not have done all this in my own strength. My daughter Ida comes to visit me very often. She is a very hard worker and I help. There’s so much to do. But the place does look beautiful after the work is finished. It’s very rewarding.

PLAYING PIANO, "Star Spangled Banner"
(The most inspiring performance of the Star Spangled Banner I’ve ever heard.)

I am now recording the letter of my grandfather which he wrote to his wife. August 4, 1874 from Jersey City, NJ.

Dear Bertha:

As you have not heard from me for such a long time. I take it for granted that you might think that I was dead. But it did almost come to it. The first 2 years I made very well. But the shoe maker I was working for gave up his business. So then I could not find another job which paid a job where I could make the same money. So I could not send you the money. So one year after another went by and so today I have nothing. No doubt this must be a surprise to you that I just don’t have anything today.

The work here is at times for only about 6 months. From then on you do the best you can. I have tried to get work on a farm, that’s only good for about two weeks. The people do not care about each other much. There have been times when I had to sleep outside in the cold and there have been times when I had nothing to eat for about 3 to 6 days. As I went further into the land about 30 miles there were little huts, the people looked like wild naked people. I could say this they could only depend on work for 5 months and the rest of the year they could do the best they can. It cost $6 a week for a room, as I had no money I had to sleep outside in the cold. I sometimes went without food for about 2 to 3 days. I did have such a trying time. So I tried to get work on a farm but that only lasted about 2 weeks. I worked as a day worker. If someone there is sick there is very little help or comforts. But at the present time I have no money or work.

The ships bring so many people here. They have no money but they expect to make it here. Some buy land in the woods about 600 miles away from New York. It will take their children’s children to cultivate the land if possible. But as I went farther into the land it was better. But to get a job on the farm was impossible. The farmers could not bring their produce to the city as it was to far to go. New York is where everything is made. They seem to favor the newly landed people they have no trouble getting work. There is about 100,000 without work. When the paper has an ad I try to get it. When paper has ad there about 100 people trying to get it. There are some people that come and go right back. Well dear Bertha keep me in your thoughts I will send you some money as soon as I can. I will close this letter with love from your Carl and to the children their loving father.

Carl Roberts

To close my recording I am now playing the beautiful hymn,
"How great thou are".

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth mein the paths of righteousness forHis name sake. Yea, though I walkthrough the valley of the shadowof death, I will fear no evil for thou artwith me, they rod and they staff they comfort me."

*COPYRIGHT 2004 Michael W. Trainor*