Our Mother was baptized Margaritha L. Grossen in a little stone church (which we presume to have been the Lutheran Church) in Frutigen, Berne, Switzerland. She had been born to Peter and Margaret Oggi Grossen on August 14, 1876. Two more daughters, Mary and Susie, were born before the courageous parents decided to come to America, where they believed they could give their children a better chance for a good life. They arrived in New York, May 7, 1881 and came by train to Alliance where a good friend, John Oesch, met them and took the Grossen family in his large wagon to one of his farms near Lake Placentia near North Georgetown. Here the Grossens were settled in a plain but comfortable farm house, with Grandfather's work being the milking of cows and other farm work. A garden was soon planted, and with great faith in God and in their own ability, they managed to be comfortable and to prosper.
After living several different places, and Grandpa working at a number of different jobs, the family bought a seventy-nine acre farm near New Waterford, and here Grandma and Grandpa Grossen raised their family and remained until their deaths in April, 1923. Both died of pneumonia, within a week of each other.
Mother wrote in her first diary, started in 1885, "When I was ten years old I left home, and have not been at home to stay long since then, as I would always rather earn my own living than depend upon my parents.” She first worked for old Mrs. Bailey in Beloit, then for Mrs. Tom Cobbs of Beloit, and then for the J. Taylors. She had quite an adventure at the Taylors, for after she had lived with them for awhile, they wished to adopt her, promising her music lessons and travel. Mother's parents did not approve of this, but finally, reluctantly, gave their consent. All was well for awhile, until Mrs. Taylor, became very mean and harsh, using obscene and profane language. Finally, Mother left one moonlit night walking two miles to her home on July 3, 1899, and never went back.
Years later, when the Taylor estate was settled, Mother received an inheritance, as she was a legal heir. It was over a thousand dollars, as I recall, and Mother privately enjoyed this financial independence very much, as she put it in the bank in her name. (Our Dad was a good provider, but he had little confidence in Mother's skills with finances, and never allowed her to write checks, after she had made several errors in first ones.) Mother gave some of her money to the Ruperts when they were about to lose their farm. (They later did lose it, and all of the $5,000.00 they had invested in it.) Mother also used her money to buy new carpet for the living room so that it would be pretty for Leighton's and Vivian's wedding (55 yds. @ $3.25. Total $180.00!).
We always asked Mother if we did not know how to spell a word, and she always knew, or found it for us in her little black dictionary. At the end of seventh grade she stopped going to school and went to work full time, but she never stopped learning, and I well remember that she could out-spell her college-educated children. Her early diary is very well written. She had a great respect for education, and encouraged us all to get the most we could.
A dramatic experience in her life was her illness with diphtheria. It started on the 18th of October, 1893 after she had nursed a child, sick with the dread disease. For three weeks she was very ill at the Fairmount Children's Home. When she began to recover, she was taken to her own home, where she became stricken with a paralysis which left her unable to walk for several months.
Our Mother was a deeply religious person. In her diaries she frequently writes of this faith. I remember her singing hymns as she went about her housework. "God will take care of you. ..." was often sung, and "One sweetly solemn thought, Comes to me o'er and o'er, I am nearer home tonight, Than I have ever been before."
When her greatest tragedy struck, the death of her first-born, Lorin, in the First World War, she was sustained by the deep faith that Lorin had made the supreme sacrifice so there would never be another war, and that he was safe with our Heavenly Father and would be waiting for her when it came her time to join him in heaven.
Mother and Dad were married at her home near New Waterford on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1898, .with all of her family present. Mother had gathered wood ferns, and when the bridegroom brought beautiful roses and chrysanthemums they were all made into a beautiful background for the wedding ceremony.
The next day the newlyweds went to Mount Union to their new home to begin housekeeping. Mother wrote that Dad "had everything fixed nice, carpets down, window shades up, furniture and stoves in place." Their wedding trip was delayed until August 20, 1901 when they went by steamer from Cleveland to the Buffalo Exposition, and on to Niagara Falls. Aunt Sue stayed with the babies, Lorin and Olin.
On January 1, 1901 Mother wrote in her diary, "We have renewed our resolution, husband and I, that we speak no unkind word to each other. We have kept this resolution for two years, and I trust, for many more. Then ours will always remain a happy, loving home." Our home did remain just that, -a happy loving home. We were disciplined, but with love and kindness and firmness.
September 2, 1903 was to be a surprise. "This is my husband's birthday." Mother had invited fifty friends for a surprise birthday party! Mother loved to entertain, her familie and Dad's, her Farm Woman's Club, her Ladies Aid, birthday parties for us children. She loved to have people come in. Every Thanksgiving she entertained the Wilsons for dinner, and every Christmas we were entertained at Grandma and Grandpa Wilson's.
Mother read and kept up with things and prided herself on being modern. She never used a pacifier for her babies, that was too old-fashioned. Father was a modern man, too. On February 18, 1902 they had electric lights put in their house. "It is a great improvement", she wrote. Father always thought he had bought the first electric washing machine sold in Alliance. He was quite deflated when he discovered it was the second!
March 3, 1907: "Vivian Laverne was born at 10:30 A.M. We were so glad to have a a little girl, we most shed tears of joy. Dan brought me a dozen red roses when baby came."
1909, Autumn. They moved into the new brick home. Mother was so proud of her large, new modern home. And proud, too, in 1915 when they completed paying for it. Meanwhile she had planted many flowers and shrubs which she cared for tenderly, for flowers were her grand passion, next to her husband and children. One day, near the end of her life, when she was very ill, she said, "If it were not for my children, I would prefer being out there, working with my flowers, even if it meant there would be no tomorrow." Her long row of rambler roses will always be remembered, her vases of flowers in the house, her plants in the bay window.
Mother was devoted to her church. She was Sunday School Superintendent for many years, and taught Sunday School for twenty-five years. To go to Sunday School was just a way of life for us children. Dad chose to remain at home and care for the baby, or, in summer, to make a big freezer of ice cream for us.
One time Dad told me that one evening after work he was sitting in the living room, still in his work clothes, and Mother came in, put her arms around his neck, and said, "Dan, I want another baby ." And so, in due season, Elvin arrived to bless their happy home.
Mother wanted us to have the best that her adopted country could give us: music lessons, Chautauqua every summer, college. Father supported her. We children were blessed with wonderful parents.
(Thanks to Vivian Starr for her research and writing of the above)