Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Great-Grandma Strader – As Remembered I

Don’t Forget Family Stories – Part I of Great-Grandma Strader

Mary E. (Gaddis) Strader born August 27, 1865, was the daughter of General Jackson Gaddie and Ellen Fox. She married James Strader in Hart County Kentucky in about 1891. She had ten children, three died stillborn. She and husband James migrated to Lyons Kansas, Rice County, about 1900 (based on children’s births). Mary E. died June 17, 1968 in Ellsworth, Kansas.
Our memories, true or not, are part of our family history. Of course verifying the facts are vital, but the memories should not be forgotten. There are several ways to celebrate your ancestors. One is to state the facts:

The other way to celebrate this matriarch's life is to tell a story:
Mother, who married into the Strader family, liked to say, Great Grandma Strader "brought her Kentucky ways with her all the way to Kansas.” But, Great-Grandma was born right after slavery, barely being saved by the civil war in 1865; whereas Mother, having been educated with the Mennonites in Buhler Kansas, a product of a rather refined free-colored family with generations of educated folks, was not accustomed to the Strader’s simple traditions. Yet, as a child, I was always fascinated by them.

To her seven children, Great Grandma ,who was a 5’10, large bone woman, with the largest hands you’d ever see, was bigger than life. To her grandchildren, she was the best German chocolate cake baker in the world, and to her great grandchildren, she was the oldest person on earth. She was 91 years old in the photo and lived another 11years, until 1968, just so we would have memories. She had a bald spot on the top of her thick head of hair, moles on her face, and had weird eating habits.

Every day, like clock work, she’d wake up, put on a feed-sack flowered dress, which she seemed to have and endless supply of, accessorize with heavy cotton beige stockings, even in the summer, and enter the kitchen, where she'd put a feed-sack apron over her ensemble. Every day she’d prepare oatmeal with sugar and milk and 2 slices of fat side back, also called, fresh side meat (non-cured bacon) that she rolled in flour and fried in the skillet using the pan grease to make a milk gravy over biscuits or bread. She’d eat it while sipping that God-awful Postum, a Kraft substitute for coffee that was some sort of suspicious powdered roasted grain.

She was never heavy, but a rather perfect size for her tall body, probably because at 2:00pm every afternoon, she’d set out to the post office, walking from 5th street to the Lyons, Kansas square, about a half a mile away, to pick up her mail. No one offered her a ride, even though she was almost one hundred years old, because they knew she wouldn’t accept it, not even in 100 degree, mosquito ridden weather. So, they just waved as they passed. Sometimes they waited for her to arrive at the post office so they could have a brief chat.

This routine, added with her daily work in the garden keeping her potatoes, turnips and onions perfect and weed free, did not end until she was practically 100 years old and had to move from Lyons to Ellsworth to live with her youngest daughter.

Those are just some of my memories. And with a little help from Mother, I'm able to picture it like it was yesterday.

More to come on Mary E. Strader and the family in Part II of Great-Grandma Strader.

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, Accessible Answers


  1. I know I should post a tombstone pic, but I I dedicate my blog site to teaching, researching and genealogical information gathering. So, just a tombstone pic, doesn't meet the objectives. Believe me she is dead and buried in Lyons Kansas. Seen it myself.