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Aunt Margaret

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Published on: Dec. 2, 1995

Last revision: Oct. 20, 2010

Back in the 1970s when our three children were grade school and junior high age, after lunch one fine Saturday in May, I laid out a stack of typed pages and said, "I want to read this to the family." Mixed emotions appeared on the children's faces: fear of entrapment, mild curiosity and stern duty. No one fled however, and I proceeded to read. Soon all were still, quiet and attentive - even the youngest, wriggliest one.

"I was born on May 6, 1855 in the old log cabin on Clear Creek," I read. "I was married in that same log cabin [in] 1872 to Jacob Thomas Kelso. I grew up in the time of the Civil War. We lived in what we called the Ozarks....the garden spot of Missouri."

So my own family first heard the "Memory Story" of Margaret Gilmore Kelso, 1855 1949, a pioneer of Greene County - our county. Her memoir was given to me by a member of the Gilmore family, who called her Aunt Margaret. I introduced her to my family as Aunt Margaret, which she has been to us ever since.

Aunt Margaret was born to the pioneer life, though she was of the third generation of Gilmore settlers here. She was born in a pioneer place, too. The Ozarks did not develop as quickly as other rural regions of Missouri. Indeed, the Ozarks can best be understood as a frontier, whose people continued to live much of what we term the pioneer lifestyle for several generations.

"When [my parents] went to housekeeping, they moved into an unfinished log cabin on a dirt floor, and they built a fire in the wash kettle until father could make a fireplace and build a stick chimney and daub it with mud. [Mother] made her beds on the dirt floor until he could get time to bore holes in the log walls to put in poles, with the bark on, to make a frame for her beds.

"Our first lights were grease lamps which were a saucer of iron with a small lip on the side and a braided rag wick that hung over the lip.... The first remembrance I have of my mother was of waking one night and seeing her sewing...by the light of a grease lamp, stuck in a crack in the chimney wall.... It held about two tablespoons full of grease. Sometimes we tore a strip of cloth,

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