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 for 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
My grandfather, John Black Applegate, married Lillian Frances Illie, and their first child, my father, John Alonzo, was born on May 19, 1912. Mother had accumulated a few stories about Johnny’s childhood for her tape.
When John (B) and Grandma-up-Dayton (Lillian Illie) were first married and Johnny was just a little boy, they lived in Mt. Orab (Ohio). Johnny (John A) was born in Lerado but they moved to Mt. Orab and John had a blacksmith shop and they were doing very well, had a garden, had a cow and chickens and everything, and they were doing very well.
There was a family who lived next door to them who had a million kids – and Grandma-up-Dayton (our term for Grandma who later lived in Dayton, Ohio) would just let them come over and help themselves to milk and cream and eggs – whatever they wanted. Well, it just happened that Johnny had a pet chicken that followed him around all the time. One day one of the kids come out and said, “Guess what we had for dinner?” and Johnny said, “What?” and he said, “Chicken” and Johnny said, “Chicken, where’d you get chicken?” and he said, “It was yours”. Well, he went inside to Grandma-up-Dayton and she was so mad she went over and like to beat the tar out of the Old Lady and that was the end of the free milk and cream but her brother, Philip (Illie), ended up marrying one of the kids, and Grandma never did forgive him – she never liked her from that day on – she held it against the whole family.
One day Johnny was playing in the sand and he didn’t have too many toys back in those days and he was playing in the sand and he had a big chain and he was pulling it around through the sand in the road like a big train – playing like it was a train – and two boys from the city, Cincinnati, came up and they said, “Oh, look at the little boy playing choo-choo in the sand” and he just kept on playing, never paid any attention, and they just kept that up – “Aw, look at the little boy” and finally he got up and he took that chain and he beat them over the head and like to killed them. (Every time I read this section, the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, knowing what a temper my father had and how he would react.)
John A and dog (with a big chain) ca. 1916
Johnny said he never could figure out why people were so upset over black and white people and getting along and everything. He said he slept in the same stall with George Williams (a fellow harness horse driver) since he was a little boy – he said they always slept in the same stall together out at the fairs and he said he couldn’t see no difference in them – black or white (they were best friends until John A died in 1978). But how George Williams got started – up in the country Doc Parsons was training horses up in there somewhere and every time he’d get his horse over on the back stretch, the horse would make a break in the same spot and he couldn’t figure out why. So one day he stopped the horse and got out and looked and here’s this little black boy throwing stones at his horse’s feet right in the same spot and he ran after him and he grabbed him and he said, “Well, if you’re so interested in horses, you just come on over here and I’ll put you to work.” He took him over and he put him to work, sent him to school, trained him and that’s how George Williams got his start.
Johnny started driving horses when he was real young. Him and Frank both took care of horses from the time they could remember. They’d each have to stand on a chair to harness them – they were that little – but one day up at Owensville they were making a big deal out of a boy that was 16 years old that was driving and they were just carrying on how big he was and how great he was and Doc Parsons was sitting on the fence alongside of Johnny and he turned to him and said, “How old was you when you started driving horses?” And Johnny said, “Twelve” and he said, “Yeah, I thought so.”
Next time, Mother will give her version of stories about the old Applegates – the parents and siblings of John Black.