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Submitted by Scott Lee
By Harold A. McDaniel, Gallia, OhioIt is not often that a person lives to see a century glide by. Those that do seldom have an active mind until the last. But "Aunt Peggy," or Mrs. Friend McDaniel, known to this section of the country as "Aunt Peggy," has lived to see a century rolled by and is still active in mind. She is 104 years old and will be 105 on May 18th. She can discuss the World War, strikes, etc., then take you back one hundred years when she was a girl and this country was new. She has a wonderful memory and can quote poetry that she learned when a girl. Let the average high school boy try to remember poems he learned ten years ago, it will make him ashamed. She recalls voices she hasn't heard for fifteen years and then remembers the person.
It is hard to believe that a woman 104 years old can take a trip from Kansas and reach here alive. But "Aunt Peggy" is alive and happy--happy and interested in life as everyone should be. "Aunt Peggy" is a remarkable woman with a wonderful education, an education that only time and experience can bring forth. And no one can fully realize what such an education is until time brings it. She can tell the story of her girlhood and the trip to Ohio from West Virginia and make you see it she does. A story vivid and picturesque, having an interest that no one can gain when they try to repeat. But for us to understand and see it, even a dim outline, it is best to go back 100 years ago, in the mountains of West Virginia.
It was in West Virginia in Monroe County, at the foot of Peters Mountain that Aunt Peggy first saw this old world. It was on the 18th of May 1815, that Mr. and Mrs. John Wiseman were the happy parents of little Margaret. Do you suppose that they ever dreamed, or even thought of their little daughter living to 104 years old? Not likely would they have thought it possible then, but Margaret grew and grew, growing stronger every day, drinking in health from the pure air and rugged surroundings. Aunt Peggy now relates how when she grew large enough to help herself, she would climb on a chair and dry the dishes for her mother. The dishes were pewter and when she dropped one it did not break easily.
She enjoyed working, it seems a natural element of her little soul and it wasn't long until she could do any part of the woman's work, although she was quite young. There were not many amusements nor many other children to play with and it was the child's duty to learn the household work. So she learned to wash and dry the dishes and to spin and weave. They raised flax and sheep to obtain their clothing. She tells how they cleaned the flax by picking the straw out and then course out, and long tiresome work they had to get it ready to spin, then weave it into cloth. They made dresses for the girls and shirts and trousers for the men. It was the same way with the wool for the winter clothing. They had never seen manufactured goods. The jeans for the boys and dresses for the girls were cut and sewed by hand. The girls sometimes colored their dress for Sunday. "They were all very plain and modest," says Aunt Peggy, "with now all these frills and things the girls wear now days."
Shoes were not worn much in the summer then and what were worn in winter were made by her father. He killed a beef every year and tanned the hide in a long trough with bark. Then he made them as they needed them. Several times she roamed over Peters mountain gathering flowers and berries. But never did she go alone for always some man accompanied her, as the wild animals were numerous. The bear and wolves were so numerous that her father had to build large fires to keep the stock in. Then sometimes a bear would break in and kill some of the stock. She remembers one particular trip she and two or three of the other children made to the other side of Peters mountain to pick huckleberries, that she picked three gallons and returned home tired but happy.
They lived closer to Union City than any other but she did not visit many times. She describes her old home with vividness, not lacking in love and an old longing for the scenes of her girlhood days. It was a beautiful place with healthy surroundings. The large spring house with the cool water where they placed the milk on flat stones to keep it cool, and the high corrals to keep the stock in and the beautiful background, all portray a wonderful picture that the child never forgets, no matter how old.
The love of the old home and birthplace comeback to Aunt Peggy so clearly today but she has not seen it for 90 years.
There came a time when her people decided that they could do better in Ohio. Her grandfather was preparing to come here when her father decided to come, too. She remembers him saying "The ground is so rocky that I have to make so many trips to the shop to get my plow sharpened, that I will come too." So they sold some of their things and loaded the rest in a wagon and started.
It took twelve days to complete the journey. Aunt Peggy walked most of the way as did all the other children. It was a long tiresome journey but the frontiersmen...
One incident Aunt Peggy....never much of a driver and she was holding the lines while the horses drank in a small stream in West Virginia. The horses started and nearly threw mother in the river causing us much excitement."
They crossed the Ohio not far below Gallipolis in a long ferry boat propelled by oarsmen. She says one of the horses was afraid and jerked himself and one of the men into the river. But they got out easily. Margaret was very afraid as the water reached high on the boat and it looked as if it would sink.
They came to what is now Walnut Township, and went to her mother's brother, Charles Neal. Her mother's name was Agnes. Here they moved into an empty house of her uncle's. He furnished them with two cows and the corn for half of the butter. When they took it to him he asked if that was all of it. He told them to take it back.
There was not much chance for an education at that time but Margaret made the best of it. She was now fifteen years old and it wasn't long until she saw the boy she afterwards married. She will now laughingly exclaim, "I thought he was the ugliest thing I had ever seen, as he had been kicked by a horse. I was a long time changing my opinion." Margaret Wiseman changed her name to McDaniel in her twentieth year and settled at McDaniel, O. In her talk today, she shows the old love for her husband as if they had been married but yesterday. Her husband died in 1880 with cancer leaving her a widow with eleven children.
Aunt Peggy was a very strong woman all her life. About the only time she took medicine was with the fever. She was asked how she accounted for her good health. She replied, "The only reason I know is that the good Lord carried me through. One thing, when they were all taking medicine, I told them I didn't want any."
Aunt Peggy lived here at McDaniel till she was 90 years old and left to live with some of her children at Pond Creek, Oklahoma. But she never forgot her old home and never ceased too long to come back. She lived there for thirteen years and a half.
There she reached her hundredth birthday. There it was celebrated, 1500 people coming to spend the day with Aunt Peggy, known there as Grandma McDaniel. The greatest feast ever held in Oklahoma was held that day. Two large birthday cakes, one yard in diameter, lighted by 100 candles, were a big attraction. A bouquet containing 100 carnations was presented to her. One of the finest bands in Oklahoma played that day.
She went to Anthony, Kansas when she was 103 to live with her grand daughter. She remained there until her son John and his wife brought her to her old home again.
They arrived at Gallipolis the 20th day of January. They were met at the station by Mr. Arthur Miller and taken to his home where they remained over night. Aunt Peggy likes to talk of her visit at the Millers' and of their kindness.
Mr. John Miller motored them to her old home the following day. It was the time of the sleet and it took most all day to make the trip. Aunt Peggy was very tired but now she has rested and feels as well as before she started.
The arrival of Aunt Peggy at her old home was one of the happiest moments of her life. She could not restrain from giving away to shouting and praising the Lord with joy. The first to come Aunt Peggy's aid was Mr. Willis Davenport. At the sound of his voice she cried, "It's old Willie, praised the Lord!"
It is hard to describe how happy Aunt Peggy was. It is impossible for us to realize what happiness it would mean to return to our old home at the age of 104.
Aunt Peggy is now at the home of her daughter, Mrs. William Cotton at McDaniel. She is as happy as can be and says she has nothing to worry about. She is always glad to see visitors and you are welcome at Cotton's to see Aunt Peggy.
Aunt Peggy believes the world is growing worse and is a strong prohibitionist. She cast her first ballot in Harper County, Kansas, and was the oldest woman to vote. She takes a wide interest in affairs.
Aunt Peggy is on earth for you to see, and I cannot picture her half as wonderful as she is. It would be impossible to repeat the details of her life as she tells them. Probably she recalls more real history than any other woman of Gallia County. The Mexican War, the Civil War, the World War, etc.