My Mother’s Family Stories

Mother and Lillian, 1933 Lillian and Mother, 1933

My mother’s 100th birthday will be this November (Martha Evelyn Mount, born November 28, 1916, in Morrow, Ohio and passed away on July 31, 1991).  When she was 72 in 1989, she made a taped recording of family stories of both sides of the family.  In her honor, and still incredulous that she sat and dictated all of this into a tape recorder by herself, I’m going to post what she wrote along with pictures whenever possible.  She had a rather rambling, random method and said whatever came to her mind at that moment, punctuated by hearty laughing.   I’ll post the stories in the order she told them and will only edit the posts to keep out anything that might be offensive or embarrassing to other members of the family.

8/89 – Family Stories Tape by Martha Applegate
Transcribed 5/19/01 by Lillian – notes in parenthesis by Lillian

When Mother was 12 years old, she went through the trauma of leaving the very small town of Morrow, Ohio, and moving to Lebanon (a big city in her mind).  Her mother ran a small restaurant there and one day when Mother was 15, the Applegate father and sons came in for chili.  And that begins her story of her lifelong, loving relationship with a family of rascals.  She loved the Applegates.  Here’s Mother’s story:


I tried to make a record (a tape) before and it didn’t turn out very good so I’m going to try again.  I am 72 years old so this is how I remember the stories.

I was born in Morrow (Ohio) and when I was 12 years old we moved to Lebanon and that’s where we met the Applegate family.  I married the son and Mom married the father three months later.  Their mothers were cousins so that made them second-cousins and my husband and I third-cousins, my children are fourth-cousins, their children are fifth-cousins and my great-children are sixth-cousins – now how about that?  (The lineage isn’t exactly correct but it makes a good story.)

It was depression time and we all lived together – one big happy family – and when you went to the table to eat you had better fill your plate up because it was never going to be passed around again – that was the only chance you were going to get.  But John (John Black Applegate) would not take any kind of welfare or anything, he insisted on working.  And then we moved to Cincinnati where he got a job shoeing mules and the house went with us and the two boys (his sons), Frank (Applegate) and my husband, Johnny (John Alonzo Applegate), drove him (John B) around with blacksmith tools in the back of the car and he would go around and tell the farmers that their horses needed shoeing whether they did or not – even just a re-setting, that was $1.00 a shoe – and he would always come home with some groceries.

John (B) wasn’t exactly what you’d call honest – he would move in an apartment – we called them flats in those days – he’d pay the first month’s rent and then go out in the hall and hook up the electricity to the hall light and then we’d have electricity until they’d catch him, then they’d make him turn it off.  And we’d live there one month until they’d put us out for not paying rent.  And he’d buy a car and make the first down payment and that was all and then they’d repossess the car and he’d have to buy another one.  I remember one day he had to go down to Eggleston (downtown Cincinnati) to get horseshoe nails and steel and things like that for horse shoes, and there was a dime store real close there and we all went in shopping in there, all but Mom – she stayed in the car and while John was in there he needed some half-soles for his shoes so he just stole those while we were shopping – that’s the day that Frank told me I had my hat on backwards which embarrassed me very much – and when he got out to the car he said to Mom, he said, “Oh, shoot, I forgot to get nails!” and he went back in and stole the nails.  I thought Mom was going to kill him that day.

Helen and John B. Applegate

Whenever we’d go to a fair, he’d never pay his way in.  He’d always argue with them at the gate and say, “I’m John Applegate – I shoe horses – I have horses in here – I’m a blacksmith, I don’t pay my way in.”  He was a character – he would never pay his way into a fair.

He had one bad habit and that was drinking but he couldn’t help that.  They say Granny Applegate (Emily Jane Reddick Applegate) had a bottle under her bed the whole time she was carrying him and he was a change-of-life baby and he was just marked by drinking, that’s all.  But we all loved him very much – he was very comical, very good natured, never got mad and could tell stories – he could sit around at night and tell you ghost stories.  He used to tell the one about Billy.  He used to visit his brother, Doc Applegate (this may be Theodore), down in Aurora, Indiana, and slept up in the back bedroom.  He used to tell it word-for-word every time just exactly right – and one night he had a lamp – they didn’t have electricity in those days – and he went up the back stairs with his lamp in his hand, sit down on the bed, took off one shoe, looked up and there stood a great big tall man in a black suit with a high silk hat.  He said the man never said “howdy-do, go to hell” or anything else but just all of a sudden he disappeared.  And the next day he was down in the barber shop, somebody’s barber shop, and they was all sitting around talking like men did in those days, and someone said to John, “You sleep in that back bedroom in your brother’s house, don’t you”, and he said, “Yes”.  He said, “Did you ever see Billy there?”.  He said, “No, who’s Billy?”.  He said, “Well, you’ll see him – he’s a tall man in a black suit with a high silk hat and he was murdered in that room years ago and everybody who sleeps in that room will see Billy sooner or later.”  And Grandpa said, “Well, I have seen Billy!”

And then he told us about a young friend of his who had lost his wife and they couldn’t bury her because the weather was bad – it had rained – and they put her in that little house in the graveyard where they put people when they can’t bury them and they all went home and they were all sitting around moaning and crying and going on – and she really wasn’t dead, she come to, got up out of there and went home – pounded on the door, knocked on the window and they were so scared they wouldn’t let the poor thing in.

This is the first installment of my mother’s taped family stories.  Next time, stories about the young sons, Johnny and Frank, and their adventures with John B.

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Lillian Applegate Westfelt was a mother of 4, grandmother of 6, and great-grandmother of 3. She was an 86-year-old widow living in a nice little bungalow with her oldest daughter and a beagle-dachsund named Addie. She passed away in November, 2018.

9 thoughts on “My Mother’s Family Stories”

  1. Thank you Lillian for posting these stories and pictures. I recall hearing some of these and I love reading them. 🙂

  2. What a treasure, Lillian! I loved reading this, and I could imagine your mother laughing as she told these stories.

  3. Oh how I love these stories! As a rascal-lover myself (my husband is from a long line of them) I felt as though we were sitting on the porch swinging sipping iced tea as your mom regaled us with her stories. As i started reading this post, I had a headache but as I read your mom’s words, the stress just fell away and the headache is gone! 🙂

  4. I have sometimes gotten annoyed with a work of fiction, thinking that the author tried to cram in too much drama, too much that wouldn’t happen to a ‘real person in real life.’
    The more I’ve researched family history–my own and others–‘real life’ far surpasses any ‘novel’ for bizarre happenings and unlikely relationships. I look forward to the next installment!

  5. I enjoyed reading Martha Evelyn’s story very much. I love the old stories about the old days. I also like your knitting and quilting. I have just finished my Farmer’s Wife Sampler 1930’s quilt. Have all the blocks done and now starting the sashing. I was most interested in seeing how you evened up your blocks in your quilt. Anyway, take care now.

  6. These days, our ways have gotten way too practical and realistic. I long for times that weren’t so black and white, when folks weren’t so harsh and they still believed in ghosts. Can’t wait for the next installment.

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